Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama outlined a plan last week at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge to give community colleges incentives to grow and tailor their programs to meet the needs of local industries.
In remarks provided by his campaign, Obama said community colleges are often a forgotten link in the nation’s education system.
“This initiative will help community colleges analyze what skills are needed to prepare students to work in local industry,” Obama said in a statement. “We’ll reward success by providing grants to schools that graduate more students and to schools that increase the number of their students who transfer to four-year colleges.”
In addition, Obama said he would streamline a student aid program that he argued is so complex that as many as 1.5 million eligible students a year don’t bother applying.
“That’s why I’ll simplify the process by eliminating the applications for student loans altogether,” said Obama. “Instead, families will just check a box on their tax form to determine eligibility.”
Obama has called for a $4,000 refundable tax credit for higher education expenses, and he said that tax break would cover the cost at most community colleges.
Obama was wrapping up a two-day trip to Iowa, where he’s locked in a tight race for the state’s leadoff precinct caucuses with party rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards. Clinton and Edwards also were campaigning in the state last week, barely six weeks before the caucuses are held.
A new Washington Post/ABC poll shows Obama with 30 percent support among likely Democratic caucus-goers. Clinton has 26 percent and Edwards 22 percent. Significantly, the poll showed that about half of Clinton’s supporters and 43 percent of Obama’s supporters said they had never attended a caucus. The voters considered the most reliable caucus participants are those who have caucused in the past.
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