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Obama, Community Colleges, and Immigration Reform

Sen. Barack Obama visited a community college in Michigan yesterday to talk about college affordability, reiterating his plans for a $4,000-a-year tax credit to help pay tuition. (I posted his speech below.)

More affordable, two-year community colleges, which are often overshadowed by their four-year counterparts in higher ed, can be an important part of the solution, the Illinois Democrat and presumptive presidential nominee has said. And his education plan even includes a fair amount about how he would beef up community colleges.

While Obama is talking about making it easier for students to go to college, states are making it harder—for undocumented students, that is.

Over at the Learning the Language blog, my colleague Mary Ann Zehr has chronicled the growing number of states that are restricting undocumented students from not only getting taxpayer-funded financial aid, but also from even attending college. South Carolina is one. North Carolina is another.

This is relevant to Obama's town hall meeting because the Hispanic population often turns to community colleges first for higher education. At a time when a college degree is more important than ever to future financial success, and when the country is trying to reinvent its workforce to be more innovative and globally competitive, it doesn't seem advisable to bar students from higher education.

Obama has supported the DREAM Act—which stalled in Congress but would have given undocumented students a path toward citizenship. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, meanwhile, has flip-flopped on this issue.

No matter who wins, it seems imperative that the next president figure out how to address the issue of undocumented students in higher ed and then get that solution through Congress.

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