Obama Makes Community Colleges a Budget Priority
By now it’s completely clear that President Obama makes education a high priority. Right along with jobs. So it should come as no surprise that Obama has proposed a plan that could benefit both of those efforts. His proposal is for the feds to spend $12 billion during the next 10 years in community colleges, focusing on:
- Modernizing community college facilities
- Increasing quality online courses, including making those free to the public
- Improving program completion rate
Colleges most interested in “trying something new,” according to James Kvaal, the president’s special assistant for economic policy, will get the bulk of the money. About $9 billion has been marked for “encouraging two-year colleges to experiment with strategies to create and improve programs that prepare students for good jobs,” according to an article at USA Today.
Obama’s team says that one-third of the funds could be acquired just by cutting a government-subsidized college loan program.
His plan will “ultimately meet the goal of graduating 5 million more Americans from community colleges by 2020.” This would be a 20 percent increase over the roughly six million students currently pursuing an associate’s degree in community colleges. Obama encourages everyone to get even one more year of education past high school. A move like this could create even more qualified workers in the job market. And once they have their associate’s, they could be more likely to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
How does this tie-in with job development? His economic team suggests a few items:
- Better job training
- More flexible class schedules
- More alignment between high school and college courses
- More communication between educators and employers
Much of this will benefit the growing number of unemployed workers, those who’ve been laid off, and other non-traditional students.
“With near double-digit unemployment and a lull in business activity, now is the time to get workers re-skilled so they are ready to hit the ground running once the recovery is underway, particularly in industries targeted by the President’s stimulus investments,” says Andy Van Kleunen of The Workforce Alliance. “Most of these jobs will require some kind of technical training past high school, but not necessarily a four-year degree. Community colleges are a logical place to begin to address that middle-skill workforce demand. They are a tremendously undervalued resource.”
Additionally, those forecasting employment trends sense demand higher for those in careers that only necessitate an associate’s degree or other technical training