Obama looks to ‘educate our way to a better economy’

Obama has supported community colleges in previous budgets.

President Obama tabbed $8 billion in his new budget for online and in-person job training programs at community colleges in a move that Education Secretary Arne Duncan says will fill open workforce positions during a time of stubbornly high unemployment.

The budget that Obama is sending to Congress aims to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade by restraining government spending and raising taxes on the wealthy. To help a weak economy, Obama’s proposal requests increases in transportation, education, and other areas.

A key component of the community college plan would institute “pay for performance” in job training, meaning there would be financial incentives to ensure that trainees find permanent jobs — particularly for programs that place individuals facing the greatest hurdles getting work.

It also would promote training of entrepreneurs, provide grants for state and local government to recruit companies, and support paid internships for low-income community college students.

“These investments will give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers where people learn crucial skills that local businesses are looking for right now, ensuring that employers have the skilled workforce they need and workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials to build strong careers,” the White House said in a statement.

Duncan said supporting community colleges’ capacity to train workers without a college degree and “align[ing] job training programs to better meet need of employers” would draw businesses to regions of the country with newly qualified applicants.

“We simply lack the programs to fill these jobs,” Duncan said, adding that the White House aims to “educate our way to a better economy.”

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said critics of the Community College to Career Fund were “shortsighted and wrong” as Congressional Republicans and GOP presidential candidates came out against Obama’s proposal after he unveiled the budget at Northern Virginia Community College.

As costs at four-year colleges have soared, enrollments at community colleges have increased by 25 percent during the last decade and now top more than 6 million students, according to the American Institutes for Research.