WARREN, Mich. (AP) — Unable to have his way with Congress, President Barack Obama reached back to his roots as a community organizer and sought Wednesday to spark a national movement in support of his idea for free community college.
Congress has shown next-to-no interest in Obama’s $60 billion community college proposal, so he’s taking his case to the people. “It’s an idea whose time has come,” Obama told an audience at Macomb Community College. “It’s an idea that makes sense.”
Obama said six states and communities have created programs similar to what he proposed during his State of the Union address earlier this year, including one announced by Milwaukee on Wednesday. Lawmakers in more than 10 other states have introduced legislation providing for free community college, he said.
Getting an education is the best investment anyone can make for their and the country’s future, Obama said. “Education has always been the secret sauce, the secret to America’s success,” he said.
Obama announced that a new, independent “college promise” advisory board will work with various organizations to build momentum for the idea by highlighting programs that already provide free community college, and recruiting more states and communities to do likewise. It will be headed by a woman who Obama said is his “favorite community college instructor,” Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and former Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer, a Republican.
Biden, who teaches English at a community college near Washington, D.C., traveled to Michigan with the president. “It’s important that you give your friends, your families, your classmates, a heads-up to join the movement to make two years of community college free because education is the key to America’s future,” she said while introducing Obama.
Obama also announced $175 million in Labor Department grants to help create 34,000 apprenticeship slots around the country.