Dr. Muriel Howard, who served as president of SUNY Buffalo State from 1996 to 2009, assured graduates, “Our economy truly needs college graduates,” in her commencement address Saturday at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Howard is currently president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Nearly 900 undergraduate and graduate students collected diplomas during Saturday’s ceremonies.

In her speech, titled “Today’s Graduates and the American Century,” Howard predicted that the skills of college graduates will be in high demand as the United States continues its pre-eminence as a global power.

She pointed out that the national unemployment rate, 7.5 percent in April, is at a four-year low, and the unemployment rate among college graduates is just 3.9 percent.

Howard was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in recognition of her “compelling advocacy, as president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, for the value of higher education.”

She also was praised for her work to influence federal policy on behalf of member colleges, her commitment to diversity and opportunity and her pioneering role as a woman and African-American in educational leadership.

She is the first woman to lead the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the first African-American president of one of six presidentially based higher education associations in Washington, D.C.