Community organiser: Obama pledges funding for local colleges

The US Department of Education has emerged as one of the winners in Barack Obama’s 2013 budget request, with a 2.5 per cent increase in funding and promises of support for community colleges.

February 15, 2012

Faced with an election expected to focus on the job creation record during his first term, the president’s financial pledges on education for 2013 are directed specifically towards employment.

In a speech at Northern Virginia Community College, Mr Obama pledged $8 billion (£5 billion) for community colleges to develop and implement job training programmes over the next three years.

Whether that investment will materialise, however, is far from certain. Although the Obama administration has always been vocal about its support for the work of community colleges, such rhetoric has yet to be backed by serious funds – a $12 billion investment in community colleges promised by Mr Obama fell by the wayside when his healthcare bill was voted down in Congress in 2010.

The budget has also promised an increase for student aid offered by the federal government. This includes Pell Grants, given to the poorest students, which are to be set at a $5,635 maximum for the 2014-15 academic year. This represents an $85 increase on the previous year.

Mr Obama has also announced the postponement of an increase in the interest rate for federally-subsidised student loans, which was originally slated for June of this year. Although Mr Obama has stated his wish to cancel the increase altogether, the budget merely says the increase would be put off for a year.

Other allowances have been made in the budget for higher education schemes Mr Obama announced in his State of the Union address last month. These include the $1 billion “Race to the Top” initiative, aimed at rewarding universities perceived to have given students the most value for money by keeping tuition costs down.

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