Community and technical college educators around the country undoubtedly perked up when President Obama mentioned community colleges in his State of the Union address on Wednesday night. Basically he said that a new congressional effort is needed to build a job-creating atmosphere for the new economy. Those who wish for more details can peruse the information provided below, courtesy of the American Association of Community Colleges. The president's proposal is part of a plan announced several months ago.
On July 14, 2009, President Obama announced the American Graduation Initiative, a landmark proposal to provide new federal support for community colleges. Speaking at Macomb County Community College, the President said that "we have to make sure we are educating people for the new jobs of the 21st century." He went on to note that "not since the original GI Bill have we taken such a historic step for community colleges." Due to their size and principal focus on community colleges, the President's set of proposals is unprecedented, according to AACC.
Briefly, the 10-year plan consists of:
- A "Community College Challenge Fund" to develop new and improved workforce training and other related programs. Funds could also be used for high school dual enrollment programs and improved articulation with four-year institutions, developmental education improvement and increased access to "wrap around" services such as tutoring and childcare to increase persistence.
- The "College Access and Completion Fund," previously proposed by the Administration, to fund innovative efforts to increase college graduation and close achievement gaps. Funding for the two funds would total $9 billion over ten years.
- $2.5 billion of federal funds to spur $10 billion in community college facilities construction and renovation. The federal funds could be used in a number of ways, including to pay off bond interest or as seed money for capital campaigns. The funds would prioritize uses for high priority areas, such as green jobs, nursing, and building trades.
- A national "Online Skills Laboratory" would make grants for the development of open, free courses for high school and college career-oriented curricula. This program would be funded at $50 million per year over ten years.