01.13.15

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Applauds President Obama’s Proposal to Make Community College More Affordable

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today applauded President Obama’s proposal to make two years of community college free for high-achieving students throughout the country.

“Making technical and community colleges affordable is one of the most important steps we can take toward building a strong path to the middle class for all Americans,” said Baldwin. “Student loan debt is holding back an entire generation and creating a drag on economic growth for Wisconsin and our country. I’m encouraged by the President’s proposal to take an important step forward to rebuilding the American dream for everyone and ensuring that our next generation gains the skills they need to move our economy forward.”

On Friday, President Obama unveiled his America’s College Promise proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and learn skills needed in the workforce at no cost. This proposal will require everyone to do their part: community colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate, states must invest more in higher education and training, and students must take responsibility for their education, earn good grades, and stay on track to graduate. The program would be undertaken in partnership with states and is inspired by new programs in Tennessee and Chicago. If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. More information on the President’s proposal is available from the White House here.

Baldwin highlighted the American Technical Training Fund in President Obama’s proposal. This fund will award programs that have strong employer partnerships and include work-based learning opportunities, provide accelerated training, and are scheduled to accommodate part-time work. Programs could be created within current community colleges or other training institutions. The focus of the discretionary budget proposal would be to help high-potential, low-wage workers gain the skills to work into growing fields with significant numbers of middle-class jobs that local employers are trying to fill such as energy, IT, and advanced manufacturing. This program will fund the start-up of 100 centers and scale those efforts in succeeding years. Smaller grants would help to bring together partners and start a pilot program. Larger grants would be used for expanding programs based on evidence of effectiveness, which could include past performance on graduation rates, job placement rates and placement wages. Building on the President’s community college initiative, known as the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants and for which 2014 was the final year of funding, these funds will help community colleges become more job-driven.

Senator Baldwin, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and Co-Chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus, has been a strong advocate for Wisconsin community and technical colleges and college affordability. Baldwin received the Association for Career and Technical Education’s 2014 “Policymaker of the Year” award for her work on behalf of career and technical education.

In September 2014, Baldwin introduced two bills to address the larger issue of student debt and college affordability, the Working Student Act and CTE Opportunity Act. In January 2014, Baldwin also introduced legislation to provide for competitive grant funding for clean energy career and technical training programs so that students are better trained for post-secondary education and better equipped for the high-skilled jobs of the future.