The Unsung Heroes: Obama and (Community College) Education

On Tuesday, October 5, President Obama and Jill Biden hosted the first ever White House Summit on Community Colleges. In an attempt to draw attention to his education plan, Obama claimed, “We want to make it easier to connect students looking for jobs with businesses looking to hire. We want to help community colleges and employers create programs that match curricula in the classroom with the needs of the boardrooms.”

Due to the exceptionally high unemployment rate and our falling world ranking concerning the percentage of college-educated adults, the Obama administration feels we need to focus on community colleges to provide a more affordable education for America’s youth. Obama is looking to improve the number of college degrees by 5 million before 2020.

Undeniably, a two-year, community college education would make many students’ resumes more appealing to any future employer than having no higher education at all. However, after already shoveling over $3 billion to help low-income students at colleges with an average graduation rate of 20% (versus the 58% rate career colleges boast), Obama’s plan is far from cheap.

The move toward this plan would attempt to partner community colleges with various businesses and focus curriculum on skills necessary for students’ desired career choices, making them more appealing to said partners. The plan has received some backlash, especially from for-profit career colleges. However, all-in-all, it hasn’t received much attention.

Education reform has been a minor, but much-buzzed about issue, for years in America. However, most legislation has been based on numbers – on measurable success, on the results of standardized tests. Now, since we’re not required to take some annoying, #2 pencil (and totally pointless) test at the higher level, the success of colleges is being evaluated based on their number of graduates… and, more importantly, their number of employed graduates.

Although it’s great that Obama is trying to make a college education a realistic option for many young Americans, I’m not sure this specific plan will be truly successful. Why? Well the fundamental issue Americans are facing is not a lack of education, but a lack of jobs.

Yes, it would be awesome to regain our spot as the leading country in the competition for “Who has the most college graduates?” However, what good is dishing out several thousands of dollars (or relying on Uncle Sam to foot the bill) when there aren’t any positions for you to enter into afterward.

Obama’s plan focuses on community colleges, “the unsung heroes” of America, and making students much more “hireable.” However, there are many students that went to prestigious, 4-year colleges that remain unemployed. I could provide various links to news articles attempting to support my point. But, as I’m sure many of you readers know, all you have to do is talk to your recently graduated friends or look in a mirror. Having a college education will not guarantee you a job.

Obama and Jill Biden’s proposal for Community Colleges is theoretically excellent. It provides education opportunities for under-privileged students that would otherwise not exist. But, it could potentially cause even greater problems, rather than solve them. It has already added to the deficit, it focuses on quantity over quality, and it would increase skilled American workers, but not the amount of jobs in the market. So, at the end of the day, would it really help American students?

What do you think? Should we focus on creating skilled workers, or on creating jobs?

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