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Obama Administration Proposes $12 Billion Toward Community Colleges

The United States' community colleges have been getting a lot of love from the Obama administration in the past week: last Wednesday Dr. Jill Biden (wife of Vice-President Joe Biden) praised community colleges as models for other countries and as vital tools for overcoming the economic crisis, and over the weekend President Obama stressed the importance of career training in securing a career with a future. Even as far back as February, USA Today notes our president urging all Americans to complete at least one year of post high school training. Now, his administration is putting its money where its mouth is.

In a speech yesterday, at Macomb Community College in Michigan, President Barack Obama announced his "American Graduation Initiative," a proposal that plans to support and strengthen the nation's community colleges by investing $12 billion over the next decade to aid them in teaching and training students for "jobs of the future." According to The Chicago Tribune, a quarter of the funds will be allotted towards renovation, construction, and expanding online education opportunities. The rest will go toward "challenge grants," for schools to use to improve their course designs, try out new programs, or expand their counseling and training divisions.

The initiative is expensive, but the costs do not come without a blueprint. President Obama plans to cut wasteful spending and putting the emphasis on expanding Pell Grants and reforming the country's student loan system. In his speech he stated: "We pay for this plan -- this isn't adding to the deficit; we're paying for this plan -- by ending the wasteful subsidies we currently provide to banks and private lenders for student loans... That will save tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years. Instead of lining the pockets of special interests, it's time this money went towards the interests of higher education in America."

According to the New York Times, over six million students enroll each year at the nation's 1,200 community colleges -- yet each year only 295,000 earn a vocational certificate, and an even smaller 555,000 earn an associate degree. With this initiative, President Obama hopes to double those rates, graduating five million more students from community colleges by 2020.

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