President’s plan could aid local community colleges

Published 10:11 pm Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In a speech given Tuesday at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich., President Barack Obama unveiled a new plan for investing more than $12 billion in community colleges around the country throughout the next 10 years.

Obama said community colleges will provide the answer to this country’s failing economy through training and preparing a workforce for employment in new, cutting edge jobs.

While the specifics of the plan have yet to be released, the leadership of Suffolk’s community colleges said they are eager about the possibilities.

“We’re excited about it and appreciate the President’s recognition of the important role the community colleges can play in the recovery process,” said Dr. Douglas Boyce, president of Paul D. Camp Community College. “We applaud the President’s initiative and hope there will be an opportunity as it’s rolled out and created to work the administration with the details.”

Specifically, Boyce said PDCCC is right in the middle of a project using a Federal Department of Labor grant to create a program for training warehouse and distribution center workers. Boyce added this program – which should be ready to begin by January – is the perfect fit for the work needed with the incoming CenterPoint development in Suffolk.

“We want to create a new program and new initiative that would help the region bounce back economically,” Boyce said. “We would hope that some of these funds are brought to the local level and to the state’s level and packaged in such a way that we could apply with sister institutions for them.”

In a statement released today by Tidewater Community College President Deborah DiCroce said TCC has long been an asset to regional growth and economic development.

“With demand for our programs at an all-time high, it is critical that community colleges have the resources to continue rising to today’s challenges,” DiCroce said. “In service to our region, TCC prides itself on rapid response to workforce needs through career and technical programs, while at the same time serving increasing numbers of traditional-age students seeking college access and affordability in baccalaureate-bound programs.”

In fact, according to the release, the number of associate degrees awarded nationally has increased 35 percent in the last decade. In that same time period, TCC has increased the number of associate degrees awarded by 82 percent.

Within this plan, Obama has cited four key initiatives to modernize today’s community colleges: send financial aid to colleges with limited capacity, provide specific scholarships and aid colleges in becoming more flexible with programming, renovate and maintain facilities, and create more online courses.

Scholarships for students could be a major factor for community college bound students. For the 2009-2010 school year, both TCC and PDCCC’s tuition rates were increased 6.8 percent, not including school fees.

These increases were higher than many four-year state college’s increases. The University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University all saw increases this school year as well, but their increases ranged from five percent (UVA and Virginia Tech) to 6.7 percent (Norfolk State). ODU increased tuition 5.4 percent.

More details on Obama’s plan will come, but in the mean time, Boyce said the possibilities are exciting.

“It’s intriguing and it’s exciting and we look forward to learning more as the details are rolled out,” he said.