Obama: Community Colleges Are The 'Unsung Heroes'

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:

Calling community colleges the “unsung heroes” of the nation’s education system, President Obama convened the first White House Summit on Community Colleges today, led by 17-year community college professor Dr. Jill Biden.

“They may not get the credit they deserve, they may not get the same resources as other schools, but they provide a gateway to millions of Americans to good jobs and a better life,” the president said of the nation’s community colleges from the East Room summit today, “These are places where young people can continue their education without taking on a lot of debt. These are places where workers can gain new skills to move up in their careers.”

The president has set the goal that by 2020 American will once again lead the world in producing college graduates. Today he said that community colleges play an important part of that goal, hoping to produce an additional 5 million degrees and certificates in the next 10 years.

“But reaching the 2020 goal that I've set is not just going to depend on government. It also depends on educators and students doing their part, and it depends on businesses and non-for-profits working with colleges to connect students with jobs. So that's why we're holding this summit; that's why I'm asking my economic advisory board to reach out to employers across the country and come up with new ways for businesses and community colleges to work together.”

Yesterday the administration announce new partnership called “Skills for America’s Future” matching up business with community college students.

Today, the administration came armed with two new public-private commitments that they believe will help prepare the community college workforce better.

Melinda Gates announced at the summit that The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation will start the “Completion by Design” program – aimed to dramatically improve community college graduation rates, investing $35 million over 5 years. Additionally a joint announcement by the Aspen Institute, the Joyce Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and the charitable foundations of JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, creates a $1 million annual prize program to recognize and reward outstanding outcomes in community colleges nation-wide.

The president said these investments in community colleges are central to the nation’s success. Again, highlighting the Republicans “Pledge to America” released two weeks ago, the president suggested that the Republicans plan for education within their pledge is like sending troops into war without weapons.

“We are in a fight for the future, a fight that depends on education. And cutting aid for 8 million students or scaling back our community -- or our commitment to community colleges, that's like unilaterally disarming our troops right as they head to the front lines.”

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