U.S. higher education is the envy of the world, with the most renowned universities attracting young men and women from around the globe.
As Americans consider college possibilities, the choices are terrific: large and small, public and private, in every region, along with a robust community-college system that is a gateway for many immigrants and for training older workers.
Yet higher education faces severe problems. It is unaffordable for many, creating a $1.3 trillion mountain of student debt. About half of students graduate. Politics and budget squeezes affect great public institutions such as the University of California at Berkeley and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Few people have thought more about this than Arne Duncan, who will step down as education secretary in December after seven years on the job.
"We have the best system of higher education in the world," he said in an interview, "but have real and serious challenges."