Obama To Announce Major Investment In Community Colleges

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
July 14, 2009

President Obama is expected to today unveil a $12 billion plan investing in the nation's community colleges in an effort to better educate workers for new jobs.

The announcement will take place during a speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan this afternoon, reports The Washington Post. Obama is expected to call for 5 million more community college graduates by 2020--an announcement which the president's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, predicted several weeks ago.

"We're really educating many more Americans [who have] experienced significant economic hardship over the last--especially the last year and a half," said Martha Kanter, the undersecretary for education, who was quoted in the Post. "We're very concerned about providing access and opportunity during this terrible fiscal climate."

The plan includes providing $2.5 billion for construction and renovation at community colleges, $500 million for developing new online courses and $9 billion for "challenge grants" aimed at creating innovative new programs.

"Many community colleges were built decades ago, and they have outdated facilities," explained James Kvaal, an economic policy adviser to the president. "Many community colleges suffer from a lack of classroom space. It makes it difficult for students to get the classes that they need when they need them."

Bloomberg.com notes that that the announcement follows the release of a White House report yesterday which indicated that "important limitations" in the U.S. education and job training system must be addressed in order for workers to advance in the healthcare and alternative energy sectors. The report, from the Council of Economic Advisors, predicted that healthcare jobs may grow as much as 45 percent by 2016, and green jobs may increase by 50 percent or more.

Obama's initiative also follows the release of a recent study which indicated that community college students have a harder time affording their educations than students at four-year schools.

"We can have students who need to work getting higher levels of education to move up in their jobs, to get new jobs, and to get the retraining they need as quickly as we can," said Kanter, who was quoted in The New York Times. "We've been so affected by the economic downturn that we need to get students better trained to get jobs as much as we can."

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