« Getting to Know Politics K-12 Readers | Main | Miller Proposes Major Student Loan Overhaul »

UPDATED: Obama's $12 Billion Boost for Community Colleges


President Obama is planning today to announce a $12 billion infusion into community colleges to jumpstart progress to a new goal he's setting to increase the number of graduates by 5 million by 2020.

According to the Washington Post's article, the breakdown for the $12 billion is: $2.5 billion for construction and renovation at the nation's community colleges, $500 million to develop new online courses and $9 billion for "challenge grants" aimed at spurring innovation at the colleges.

UPDATE: According to excerpts of Obama's remarks, distributed by the White House, the President is calling this the "most significant down payment yet on reaching this goal in the next ten years. It’s called the American Graduation Initiative." And to pay the tab, Obama says: "We pay for this plan by ending the wasteful subsidies we currently provide to banks and private lenders for student loans, which will save tens of billions of dollars over the next ten years."

Obama's announcement is well timed, given the latest jobs report my colleague Catherine Gewertz blogs about over at High School Connections.

And if you'll remember, in a February speech, Obama set a new goal that the United States will be No. 1 in the world for college graduates by 2020.

Still, we've heard very little from the Obama administration (including EdSec Arne Duncan) about how to boost high school graduation rates, specifically, especially given that high school is the gateway to postsecondary education. In May, Catherine explored this issue, and whether the 2020 goal is realistic. Clearly, the $100 billion in education aid that's wrapped up in the stimulus package may indirectly help improve graduation rates, but so far, stimulus money is supporting the status quo rather than reform—and the status quo isn't going to boost high school, or college graduation, rates.


This is a bold and very smart plan, which will have immediate and long-term positive results. Plus it features an intelligent and progressive means of funding.

Now let's hope the President and the Congress follow a successful passage of real health care reform with a new, bigger, bolder set of initiatives for the jobs and recovery these graduates -- and all of us -- will need.

I believe that until we are willing to address the high remediation rates seen at the community colleges (43% of the students take at least one remedial course) that we cannot reform education. Additionally, 63% of students who need remediation do not earn degrees. Currently, community college remediation costs $3.7 billion nationwide in costs and lost income. Community Colleges must be part of the CCSSI writing and review teams. K-12 is in the position to address the remediation by betterpreparing post-secondary students. There is no on better than community college professors who know what is required for success at their institutions. Please include them in the K-12 standards writing process.

President Obama's plan to funnel another large percentage of tax payer dollars at community colleges with the hope of increasing the percentage of graduate does not add up. If one does the math, as poster "Amy" notes above, one sees that 63% of remediatees do not graduate, and this is costly! The problem is not the education provided by the community college. It is the ill-prepared student who never receives a solid foundation who continues to fail. As a parent, I am outraged that my children continue to receive poor math, for example, instruction that does not emphasize fluency with basic arithmetic. And, to then blame the community colleges for this is absurd.

We must overhaul our K-12 system and listen carefully to the voices of academically literate parents who share the brunt of our current system with our children. And, we must allow the states to lead the effort.

One cannot fix a bridge by replacing the deck if the pillars have cracks.

Mitchell Hirsch,

Is there any thing that you believe that government cannot do?

Comments are now closed for this post.

Follow This Blog


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments