The White House held its first ever Community College Summit on October 5, emphasizing the importance of education to the Obama administration.
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a community college professor for 17 years, chaired the day-long event, which brought together various colleges, businesses, students and federal and state policy leaders to work on making community college a cheaper, highly-valuable option for more students.
Obama's plan is to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world and have community colleges produce an additional five million graduates by 2020 with affordable tuition, open admission policies, flexible course schedules and convenient locations.
The president has just approved an initiative to cap student debt at 10 percent of their salary – no matter what their salary is – and another initiative in which an individual who enters into a public service job will not have to pay any loans back after 10 years.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has also recently passed, which will increase the number of Pell Grants available – which will give money to low-income students in need – and add $40 million in Work Study funds and training programs.
In order to do this, the Obama administration, working with the Gates Foundation and other businesses and organizations, have started several initiatives. One is the Community College and Career Training Initiative, a competition held by the Department of Labor and the Department of Education which will award approximately $500 million to colleges to increase the amount of degree completions, certificates and industry-recognized credentials.
Another program is VetSuccess, which provides on-campus benefits, assistance and adjustment counseling to veterans.
How Green River will be affected by these initiatives is still ambiguous, however, and according to John Ramsey, director of public information, the college has only heard about what is online.
"The good news is that Obama places high value on community colleges," said Ramsey. "Hopefully there will be additional federal support for colleges [that] will provide some relief for students."
Ramsey also said that most colleges are vulnerable to cuts at the state-level since the state only protects K-12 programs. "Funding for higher education has already been cut by 16 percent, but we are probably looking at 22 percent, or the equivalent of about $67 million," he explains.
This is worrisome to Obama, who has disagreed with the economic plan that was released two weeks ago by Republican leaders in Congress.
At the summit, Obama said "[The plan] would reduce or eliminate financial aid for eight million college students. [The money] would help pay for a $700 billion tax cut that only two percent of the wealthiest Americans would ever see ... and that just doesn't make sense – not for students, not for our economy."