“For every young person willing to work hard, I want two years of community college to be as free and universal as high school education is today,” said Obama.
Obama launched the campaign at Macomb Community College in Warren, MI. There, members of the AFT-affiliated Macomb Community College Faculty Organization (for full-time faculty) and Association of Adjunct Faculty of Macomb Community College are working with students to ensure they get the education they need to move on to four-year college, find jobs, or refresh or restart their careers.
The advisory board will work with businesses, charities and nonprofits, as well as the colleges themselves, to ensure students get the training, opportunity and education they need to be successful. It will be chaired by Jill Biden, herself a community college professor, as well the wife of Vice-President Joe Biden.
Obama praised community colleges as “the heart of the American dream” and called out Macomb as one of the best, most innovative schools among them. “You work directly with local employers and labor unions to make sure students are getting the skills they need to get a job right now,” he told the Macomb faculty, staff, students and administrators gathered at the event. He described the hands-on training the college offers, underscoring the benefits of “earn as you learn” programs, where students can simultaneously attend college and draw a paycheck.
On a larger scale, Obama announced a national Department of Labor program that will distribute $175 million in apprenticeship grants to 46 organizations, institutions and businesses pledging to train workers in healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing and other job-ready fields. Not only do workers who have completed an apprenticeship earn $300,000 more over the course of their lifetimes than those who do not apprentice, he said, such training benefits the entire country. “Education has always been the secret sauce,” he said “the secret to America’s success.”
for press coverage of the campaign launch.
AFT President Randi Weingarten, who celebrated Labor Day with Obama two days before the Macomb event, is a longtime advocate of free community college, and would push the notion of tuition-free, debt-free higher education even further.
“As the largest higher education faculty union in the nation, we are honored to be a part of this board as a means to helping make community college available and free to hardworking students, strengthening our workforce and boosting investment in community colleges,” Weingarten said. “Americans are asking for action, and our union is fighting so that American students who want to attend college can do so without incurring crippling debt,” she added.
“Our community colleges provide much of the training and many of the skills needed in today’s workplace,” said AFT Connecticut Vice-President for Higher Education Dennis Bogusky. “A highly skilled, trained and educated workforce is vital for the success of our nation. To accomplish this, a community college education should be accessible — and the president’s proposal would assure that by making it tuition free. We look forward to working together to make it happen,” he added.
“The higher education that community college offers is cost-effective and can lead to good, productive, fulfilling, middle-class lives,” said AFT Connecticut Executive Vice-President John Brady, RN. “I know this firsthand; in the 1990s, while working at Backus Hospital, I entered nursing school at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich. There I had the opportunity to simultaneously work and study while earning my certification as a registered nurse,” he added.
to watch the campaign launch event with President Obama.