People with a one-year certificate or two-year degree in certain career fields can earn higher salaries than those with a traditional college degree, said Anthony Carnevale, director of the center at Georgetown University.

Mark Schneider, the former U.S. commissioner of education statistics who now serves as vice president at the American Institutes for Research, said there’s no doubt that high-tech companies need skilled workers. But he said there are challenges with leaning heavily on community colleges.

Many students enter community colleges lacking math skills. The sophisticated equipment needed for training is expensive, and there’s little known about the effectiveness of individual community colleges programs across the country, he said.

“We need measures of how well they are training their students, how well their students are being placed in the job market, and … are they making money?” Schneider said. “We need to track that really, really carefully. And, we need to make all that information available to students before they sign on … and before taxpayers subsidize all of this.”

Obama’s budget will likely be harangued by House and Senate Republicans, but the funding for community college job programs might have a chance for bipartisan support, wrote Jennifer Wheary, a blogger for the website Policy Shop, which analyzes state and federal legislative proposals.

“In a highly contentious election year there is no way that Republicans can react warmly to Obama’s budget,” Wheary wrote. “Still, everyone’s focus on college affordability, and the accurate perception that community colleges can be cost-effective generators of opportunity hopefully will bode well for this particular provision.”

While administration officials on Feb. 12 defended the plan as a balanced approach, Republicans belittled the effort as a repeat of failed policies that did too little to attack soaring costs in such programs as Medicare and threatened growth by raising taxes.

The debate is almost certain to go all the way to Election Day in November with gridlock keeping Congress from resolving many pressing issues on expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts until a lame-duck session at year’s end.

Obama’s spending blueprint for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 projects a deficit for this year of $1.33 trillion. That would mean four straight years of trillion-dollar-plus deficits.


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