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President Obama Announces Major Community College Initiative
President Obama announced his $12 billion plan for American community colleges on July 14, in a speech on the American Graduation Initiative, calling for an additional 5 million community college graduatesboth degree and certificate earnersby 2020 and new initiatives to teach adults the skills they need to ensure America's economic strength in an increasingly competitive world economy. This unprecedented support for community colleges will help rebuild the capacity and competitiveness of America's workforce. The new program is designed to improve graduation rates, modernize facilities and create new online learning opportunities in community colleges over the next 10 years. Funds for the program are slated to come from savings from the administration's proposed student loan reforms, which Congress is expected to consider soon. Adult educators will want to know about new opportunities the initiative offers. Highlights appear below.
Plan Creates Community College Challenge Fund
New competitive grants from the $9 billion Community College Challenge Fund will enable community colleges and states to innovate and expand proven reforms during the next decade. Also, colleges could, for example:
- Build partnerships with businesses and the workforce investment system to create career pathways to help workers earn new credentials and promotions step-by-step, or create worksite education programs to build basic skills and curricula coordinated with internship and job placements
- Improve remedial and adult education programs, accelerating students' progress and integrating developmental classes into academic and vocational classes.
Online Skills Lab to Provide Free College Courses
The plan will invest $50 million annually for 10 years in an online skills laboratory. The departments of Defense, Education and Labor will work together to make new state-of-the-art online courses freely available through one or more community colleges and the Defense Department's distributed learning network. The agencies will explore ways to award academic credit based on achievement rather than class hours, and rigorously evaluate the results. Teams of experts in subject matter, teaching and technology applications will create the open online courses based on research into effective teaching practices, understanding of how students learn and the very best content in the field. Private online providers also will be free to use these courses.
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