Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Handwriting is on the Wall

The handwriting is on the wall. When the President wants to increase appropriations to community colleges, he is not doing this because he has extra money to spend. He is basically saying that our national workforce has to re-trained. The old economy is gone and it is not coming back. In fact I would add one more thing to re-training. Pick a profession that has a future. Forget about learning how to fix computers, these are becoming appliances. The growth in the future is going to be in the medical and phyical care of the baby boomers and the medical profession is usually understaffed.

In addition if you can afford it move out of areas that were hard hit by the economic downturn to areas that are more economically viable. You can find these on the internet. For example, choose places where the state or local unemployment rate is below the national average of 9.5%. Go visit the place and see how hard it is to get a job and see what kind of workers the area needs.

Text in bold is my emphasis. From the WSJ:

Obama announced a $12 billion community-college initiative designed to boost graduation rates, improve facilities and develop new technology.

The president framed the initiative as an opportunity to change the face of Rust Belt states like Michigan that have traditionally relied heavily on unskilled labor, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

"Some of the jobs that have been lost in the auto industry and elsewhere won't be coming back," President Obama said in a speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich., "They are casualties of a changing economy." . . . .

. . . . While small compared to the $100 billion in stimulus money the Obama administration has to spend on education, it would mark a substantive increase in direct federal spending on community colleges. A recent report by the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank, estimated the federal government provides community colleges with about $2 billion a year in direct support, about a tenth of what it spends on public-four year schools.

Mr. Obama has called education key to the nation working its way out of the recession and competing more effectively internationally. Saying he wants to bolster high-school and college-graduation rates for all Americans, he has used the availability of additional federal funds to try to persuade budget-strapped states, public schools and colleges to undertake new initiatives.

The president said the program is inspired in part by a Michigan program that offers displaced auto workers tuition assistance at community colleges to seek retraining for alternative careers, such as in the health-care industry, which until recently has been expanding in the state.

Administration officials said they plan to fund the new initiative with savings that result from proposed changes in the federal student loan program. They have proposed eliminating private lenders from the program and making the federal government the sole lender. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated such a change would save $87 billion over the next decade, although it still faces opposition from private lenders.

Enrollment at two-year schools has been booming for more than a decade, due partly to increased demand for more college-educated workers and sharply higher costs of a four-year college degree. Still, community colleges in many states have seen their funding cut as state budgets have floundered. This has forced many to cut some course offerings and classes even as they are enrolling more students. Concerns have grown that these institutions will not be able to meet the growing need.

Of the nation's 18.7 million graduate and undergraduate college students, about 6.7 million, or 36%, attend two-year schools. With an average age of 29, they tend to be older than students at four-year schools and work longer hours at jobs outside the classroom. Many need remedial classes; fewer than a third earn their associates degrees in three years or less.

In a conference call Monday, Martha Kanter, undersecretary of education, said the nation's two-year colleges and their students have experienced "significant economic hardship" during the current recession. "And we're very concerned about providing access and opportunity during this terrible fiscal climate," she added.

Of the funding, $9 billion will be used to award grants through an "access and completion" fund. These grants are designed to spur community colleges and states to launch programs designed to raise graduation rates and produce graduates who are ready for the workplace or for a transfer to a four-year school. Administration officials say such measures could include forming partnerships with major employers or bolstering counseling and remedial-education programs.

Another $2.5 billion will help pay for renovations to community-college facilities. Administration officials said many are outdated, short on class space and ill-equipped to handle modern technology. The funds are to be used as seed money to help raise private funding or to pay the interest on construction bonds and loans.

About $500 million will be used to develop online curriculum for community-college students.

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