Friday, May 8, 2009

President Obama Highlights the Importance of Community Colleges

Today, President Barack Obama held a press conference to address the nation’s rising unemployment rate, which now stands at 8.9 percent, with 539,000 jobs lost in April of this year. At the conference, President Obama announced a significant change in the unemployment benefit rules, which stipulates that unemployed workers receiving unemployment benefits may qualify for education- and training-related financial aid.

Specifically, the Federal Pell Grant program can provide up to $5,350 for educational costs at community colleges, colleges and universities, and many trade and technical schools. "The idea here,” said President Obama, “is to fundamentally change our approach to unemployment in this country, so that it's no longer just a time to look for a new job, but is also a time to prepare yourself for a better job. That's what our unemployment system should be--not just a safety net, but a stepping stone to a new future." As part of this new plan, states will be encouraged to change rules that prevent the unemployed from enrolling in education or training courses because they are supposed to actively look for a job while taking government benefits.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis have collaborated on the launch of a new website,, which provides the necessary information for unemployed workers about the array of financial opportunities open to them.

In other major news, President Obama announced that Dr. Jill Biden, a professor at Northern Virginia Community College and Second Lady of the United States, will “lead a national effort to raise awareness about what we're doing to open the doors to our community colleges.”

President Obama stated that “in the weeks to come, I will also lay out a fundamental rethinking of our job-training, vocational education, and community college programs. It's time to move beyond the idea that we need several different programs to address several different problems--we need one comprehensive policy that addresses our comprehensive challenges.”

To watch the President’s speech:
Read a transcript of the President’s speech at:

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