July 15th, 2009

Obama audaciously hoping for education reform

Yesterday, President Obama delivered a speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan, a city seriously wounded by the failing auto industry.  His message was, not unexpectedly, one of hope–this time in the guise of a new plan to strengthen the system of community colleges in the United States over the next decade.President Obama at Macomb Community College in Michigan

The President says he plans to spend $12 billion dollars on community colleges, with the goal of adding five million to the number of college graduates we produce every year.  To the down-on-their-luck of Warren, MI, he pitched the plan as “the most significant down payment yet on reaching the goal of having the highest college graduation rate in the world.”

Community colleges make sense as a salve for the economic crisis, in at least two ways:  not only can they provide job-specific training to adults who need to re-imagine their careers, mid-life, they also cost far less than private, or even state, schools. Indeed, President Obama seems to see the growth of community colleges as parallel to the student-loan legislation he has already put in motion, which he hopes will lower the cost of college for many Americans.

In Michigan, he referred to President Truman’s G.I. Bill, which doubled the number of community colleges in America and increased their enrollment sevenfold.   The potential of a strong system of community colleges could be vast, and it’s easy to hope that a decade of strategic spending will force historic changes analogous to those of the Truman era.

Obama Attacks on Economy and Seeks Billions for Community Colleges [New York Times, 07/14/09]

Full text of the President’s speech [White House website]

Related Program:  Discounted Dreams [VIDEO]

(Photo credit:  Jeff Haynes/ Reuters)

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