More money, job training could be in future for community colleges

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Twenty-five students are learning basic welding skills at the Gulfport branch of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The class is free, thanks to federal funding.

After working as an electrician, Ray Massey is ready for a career change.

"Things kind of slowed up and I had friends who are welders also.  And I just feel that this is a very prosperous career, so I just tried it. Things are real tight right now," Massey said.

Even more job training programs could soon be offered under President Barack Obama's American Graduation Initiative.  The plan would invest $12 billion in community colleges over ten years.

Here's a breakdown of the funding proposal:

  • $9 billion would go toward competitive grants to expand training programs.
  • $500 million would fund more online courses.
  • $2.5 billion would be used to renovate outdated facilities or build new structures.

"Any new grant funds that are available for online education or for improving adult education, reducing dropout rates, increasing completion rates, all of the different initiatives in his plan will impact, because we do train in all of those areas," said Anna Faye Kelley-Winders, Vice President of MGCCC.

With unemployment on the rise and job openings scarce these days, many people are going back to college to learn new skills. The idea of the plan is to boost enrollment and re-train people for highly-skilled jobs of the future.

"With a lot of encouragement and a lot of ability made for our students to come back to school, we could see certainly just an increasingly number of students in our classes this fall and in the years thereafter, which is great," said Winders.

More opportunities could spark an interest in education for students who want to launch a career or move on to higher education.

"Some people can't afford to go to college, like me," said Danny Nguyen.  "I was going into nursing and tuition was just too high. I couldn't afford it. Financial aid helps, but not really.  So, I mean, free programs like this really help a lot."

"Please Mr. Obama, please, have more funding for stuff like this. This is very helpful," said Ray Massey.

The president said the plan will be paid for by cutting waste from the student loan program.

About six million students currently attend community college.  Mr. Obama wants to see an additional five million college graduates by 2020.

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