White House grants $500 million to community colleges

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Administration officials today touted $500 million in grants for community colleges, using the occasion to push for President Barack Obama’s now-stalled proposed stimulus.

“There is no silver bullet that will end our economic crisis overnight … [but] if Congress will invest in American workers, our economy will adapt and recover and we’ll put millions of people back to work,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said today as she announced the state-by-state awards.

The grants, according to Jill Biden, wife of Vice-President Joe Biden, ”are part of this administration’s consistent focus on the vital role of community colleges in helping power the economic recovery.”

Most of the reporters worked for regional media outlets, which are likely to highlight awards to local colleges.

The awards were portrayed as a down payment in a $2 billion, four-year project, and as a compliment to the $447 billion American Jobs Act promoted by Obama during his September 8 speech to the House and Senate. The pending bill includes an additional $5 billion for community colleges, Biden said.

The president is using the promise of the extra spending to rally his voter base around his 2012 re-election campaign. The bill, which has attracted strong opposition from GOP legislators, is opposed by some Democrats as well. The bill may be debated in the Democrat-dominated Senate in October.

Government officials invited colleges to apply for the grants in 2010. The grants announced Monday range from $2.7 million to $25 million and were given to colleges and business groups.

The colleges train people to take well-paid, skilled occupations. The graduates work as machinists, paramedics, nurses and telecommunications technicians.

National unemployment is at least 9.1 percent, and is higher among racial or ethnic minorities.