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Obama touts college plan

President Barack Obama speaks at Macomb Community College Tuesday in Warren, Mich. (AP / The Spokesman-Review)
President Barack Obama speaks at Macomb Community College Tuesday in Warren, Mich. (AP / The Spokesman-Review)

Community colleges would get $12 billion to help jobless

WARREN, Mich. – With unemployment continuing to climb, President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a plan to pump $12 billion into U.S. community colleges over the next 10 years to help struggling workers prepare for new careers, saying a better educated work force is critical to long-term prosperity.

“Time and again, when we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result – by tapping the incredible innovative and generative potential of a skilled American work force,” Obama said.

In his appearance here at Macomb Community College and earlier in the day in Washington, Obama sought to draw a direct connection between recovery from the current economic crisis and a broad array of administration initiatives, including education, the stimulus package and overhauling the health care system.

Before flying to Michigan, Obama acknowledged that unemployment may “tick up for several months,” but he said his prescriptions, taken together, offered the best hope for creating jobs.

And here, in a state where the jobless rate tops 14 percent compared with the national average of 9.5 percent, the president pointed to the health care debate raging in Congress and said stabilizing medical costs was critical to restoring prosperity.

“Now is the time to build a firmer, stronger foundation for growth that will not only withstand future economic storms, but that will help us thrive,” he said on the Macomb campus. “To build that foundation, we have to slow the growth of health care costs that are driving us into debt.”

He took a barely veiled shot at Republicans, who were in power when the recession began but who have relentlessly attacked his recovery plans.

“I love these folks who helped get us in this mess and then suddenly say, well, this is Obama’s economy. That’s fine. Give it to me,” the president said. “My job is to solve problems, not to stand on the sidelines and harp and gripe.”

Obama’s education plan would provide funds for new construction, online education and competitive grants.

About 6 million people are enrolled in community colleges in the U.S., but nearly half fail to complete degree and certificate programs, according to government figures.

The administration seeks to boost the number of graduates by 5 million over the next decade.