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W.Va. governor to focus on college education during his tenure heading governors group

The incoming head of the National Governors Association said Sunday he will make increasing the number of students who complete college his focus during his scheduled yearlong tenure.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, assumed the chairmanship of the NGA on Sunday from Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, replaced Manchin as vice chairman.

Manchin said he will work to unite governors, higher education officials, campus leaders and corporate chief executives behind the college initiative he calls "Complete to Compete."

"If we don't improve college completion rates in this country, our children will be less educated than we are," he told reporters. "That will be the first time in the history of the United States of America that will have happened. That should be the most alarming statistic to get you motivated to make changes than anything else we can do."

Whether Manchin will be there to see the effort to fruition is a question. He has said it's "highly likely" he will announce Monday he is running this fall for the Senate seat vacated by the death of Democrat Robert Byrd.

Manchin told reporters at the NGA meeting that much of the work on his initiative has already been started, ahead of when other incoming chairmen might start work on their favored topic. He is aiming to have individual state programs incorporated into the State of the State addresses many governors will deliver in January.

The election to replace Byrd is in early November.

"As far as it being affected, no, not at all, it won't," Manchin said.

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