States Would Distribute $5-Billion to Community Colleges Under Obama's Jobs Plan

September 09, 2011

A day after President Obama unveiled a $447-billion jobs package, a few details have emerged about how the $5-billion allocated to community-college construction would be disbursed.

During a news conference on Friday, Carmel Martin, the Education Department's assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, said that if the legislation were enacted as planned, states would receive a share of the money based on their number of students attending community colleges. That share would in turn be given to specific community colleges based on those institutions with the greatest needs, she said.

The nation has roughly 1,100 community colleges with a total enrollment at 12 million. Many community colleges were built during the rapid expansion of the nation's higher-education system in the 1960s and 1970s, and some campuses are in desperate need of renovation and upgrades to make use of new technologies and to become more energy-efficient.

The American Association of Community Colleges estimates that community colleges have facilities needs totaling $100-billion. That includes new construction as well as modernization, said David S. Baime, the association's vice president for government relations.

Ms. Martin said the money could be used only for repairs and not new construction. In addition, she said that the money needed to be committed to certain institutions by September 2012 and that construction projects had to be completed in 36 months.

President Obama urged Congress on Thursday to quickly pass the legislation, called the American Jobs Act. The White House plans to send Congress the legislation next week, but it's unclear how quickly lawmakers might act on it.