President to Seek $8-Billion for Job-Training Partnerships Involving Community Colleges

February 13, 2012

In his budget for the 2013 fiscal year, due out today, President Obama will ask Congress to raise the maximum Pell Grant by $85, to $5,635, and provide $10-billion for job-training programs, according to the White House and sources briefed on Sunday.

The budget will include $30.7-billion for the National Institutes of Health, the same as the current year, but it will propose new grant-management policies that would increase the number of research grants by 7 percent. It would expand and make permanent the research-and-development tax credit.

The bulk of the job-training money would come in an $8-billion "Community College to Career Fund," which would provide money to community colleges and states to form partnerships with businesses to train an estimated two million workers in high-growth and in-demand areas.

The election-year budget, which comes at a time of shrinking revenue and rising deficits, would also double the number of work-study jobs and reward colleges and states that slow their tuition growth and sustain their higher-education budgets.

As the president promised in his State of the Union address and a speech at the University of Michigan late last month, the administration would offer $1-billion in "Race to the Top"-style grants to states and expand the Perkins Loan program from $1-billion to $8.5-billion, allocating additional aid to institutions that offer relatively low net tuition, graduate relatively high proportions of Pell recipients, and prepare graduates to obtain employment and repay their loans.

The plan would also maintain the interest rate on subsidized Stafford Loans at 3.4 percent for an additional year, make permanent a $2,500 tax credit for college tuition and fees, and provide $55-million in grants through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to encourage innovation at colleges, with $20-million set aside for minority-serving institutions.

Like last year's budget, it would replace the Teach Grant program with a Presidential Teaching Fellows grant program for the states. The new $190-million program would provide states with scholarship money for teacher candidates in exchange for better reporting to help determine which teacher-education programs work.

The TRIO and Gear-Up college-preparation programs would receive level financing, receiving no increase, as would all minority-serving institutions. However, the budget would also create a $30-million grant program to improve and expand teacher-education programs at minority-serving institutions.

Gearing Up for Work

 The president will announce the "Community College to Career Fund" in a speech today at Northern Virginia Community College, in Annandale, Va. Later this month, Jill Biden, a community-college instructor for the last 18 years, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will visit several community colleges and businesses that are collaborating to prepare students for the work force.

It's unlikely, however, that the president will get as much money as he's asking for. In 2009 he asked Congress to approve $12-billion for community colleges, but that amount was whittled down to $2-billion in the final bill.

According to a fact sheet released by the White House on Sunday, the proposed new fund would train workers for unfilled jobs through apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and internships. It would also support industry efforts to develop skills consortia, standardize industry certifications, develop new training technologies, and offer grants to state and local governments that encourage companies to locate in the United States.

Under the president's plan, states, industries, and colleges that were successful in placing workers in jobs would be eligible for additional "pay-for-performance" money.

The fund would also finance a six-week online training course on entrepreneurship for up to 500,000 new entrepreneurs and an intensive six-month entrepreneurship-training program for 100,000 small-business owners.

If enacted by Congress, the fund would "make for a huge positive impact," said David S. Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges. "Work-force-training programs are costly, and given sustained cuts from state and local sources, these proposals could greatly benefit local economies."