The White House says community colleges are in 'serious need of upgrades.'

Weatherford College President Kevin Eaton has a repair list for his aging campus that could use a boost from federal dollars promised by President Barack Obama.

At Tarrant County College, the South and Northeast campuses are also more than 40 years old and could use upgrades.

“If we have an opportunity — yes, we will consider asking for grants,” said Bill Greenhill, president of the Tarrant County College District board of trustees.

Obama recently submitted to Congress the American Jobs Act, a plan to spur economic growth and employment. The bill includes a $5 billion investment in modernizing community colleges.

That detail is a sign to area higher education leaders that the president understands that these institutions are key to economic redevelopment.

“If you overlook community colleges, you have made a mistake,” Eaton said, adding that those institutions are the place to go to find skilled workers.

The tough economy boosted enrollment in community colleges as people retrained for new demands in the workforce. For example, TCC’s fall 2011 enrollment rose 1.9 percent over last year, with 50,062 students on its five campuses.

“We’ve been real crucial in these economic times,” said TCC Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley. She said Obama’s focus on community colleges is “right on target.”

$458 million for Texas

A fact sheet issued by the White House press office states that community colleges are “in serious need of upgrades to ensure that facilities are equipped to meet the demands of the 21st-century workforce.”

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