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Press Release - Obama Unveils Agenda to Strengthen America's Community Colleges

November 19, 2007

New Tax Credit Would Make Community College Free for Most Americans

Fort Dodge, IA - At a news conference at Iowa Central Community College today, Senator Barack Obama unveiled a plan to strengthen America's community colleges and make it easier for high school graduates to go on to college and get the skills they'll need to succeed in the 21st century economy.

"I am putting forward an agenda to strengthen our community colleges, so that we prepare the American workforce for the demands of a new century," Obama said. "My plan will make higher education more affordable, match community college degrees to the needs of local industry and national goals, and provide the American people with a critical resource to help them live their dreams."

Obama's agenda also includes an American Opportunity Tax Credit that will cover the cost of attending community college for most high school graduates in America.

"This fully refundable credit will pay for the first $4,000 of a college education, which would make community college completely free for most Americans," Obama said. "We'll make sure that Pell Grants continue to help low-income Americans by adjusting the award to keep pace with rising costs."

Obama also vowed to make a college education more accessible to more Americans by making it easier for students and parents to apply for and receive financial assistance to go college.

"You shouldn't need a PhD just to apply for financial aid," Obama said. "Yet studies show many young people don't sign up for aid simply because the application process is too complicated. In 2004 alone, 1.5 million high school students didn't apply even though they were eligible for a Pell Grant. That's why I'll simplify the process by eliminating the application for student aid altogether. Instead, families will just check a box on their tax form to determine eligibility."

As the number of community college students increases - ICCC's enrollment has more than doubled over the last decade - Obama will create a Community College Partnership Program to ensure the skills needed to succeed in the local economy are part of the curriculum.

"This initiative will help community colleges analyze what skills are needed to prepare students to work in local industry," said Obama. "Here at Iowa Central, great strides have been taken to emphasize biotechnology. That's precisely the kind of effort that we want to see across the country, so that students get an associates degree that prepares them to get a good job, to stay on the cutting edge of our changing economy, and to keep America ahead. And we won't just encourage community colleges to move in this direction - we'll reward success by providing grants to schools that graduate more students, and to schools that increase the number of their students who transfer to four-year colleges."

Obama's commitment to investing in the nation's community colleges reflects his belief that they are a crucial element of helping more workers and their families claim the American Dream.

"An ever-expanding American Dream: this is the legacy - and the promise - of the community college system in America," said Obama. "It's a system based on the principle that we all have a stake in one another's success. Because when we invest in one another's dreams, our communities benefit, our states benefit, and ultimately our entire nation is lifted up."

To learn more about details of the plan, click:

Barack Obama, Press Release - Obama Unveils Agenda to Strengthen America's Community Colleges Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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