This past week, fellow MoJo blogger Andy Kroll and I wrote about student loan reform and how the new law’s provisions correlate to Obama’s support, or lack thereof, for community colleges. I argued that Obama’s decision to sign the bill at a Virginia community college signaled a symbolic reaffirmation of his support for these overenrolled, underfunded, two-year colleges. Before this week, the president had scarcely mentioned community colleges since challenging them last summer to graduate five million more students by 2020. But Andy made the excellent point that the bill Obama signed is missing the $12 billion the prez proposed to help community colleges meet his challenge.
The version passed by the House last fall included $10 billion for the American Graduation Initiative, the program that was to fund Obama’s graduation mandate. But when the bill got tied to health care reform to help health care meet the cost-savings requirements of reconciliation, that $10 billion got knocked down to a meager $2 billion. Giving more money to community colleges would have thrown off the overall savings needed to help health care stay afloat.
I agree with Andy that not offering any federal funding to community colleges would be tantamount to Obama selling out on the working class, but I’m hopeful that the funding will come through soon in another form. I don’t think the president has forgotten how much community colleges are hurting. Plus, had student loan reform not been tied to health care, it likely would have remained in legislative limbo. House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) had been working on student loan reform for years. And reform minus promised additional funding for community colleges still seems like a better deal than no student loan reform and no money for community colleges.