Almost $500 million in grants to increase graduation rates and provide new job-specific community college programs targeted at unemployed workers were announced this afternoon by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter. The money is the first part of $2 billion, four-year project, in concert with President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act, designed to put more people back to work.
The funds were awarded to 32 groups of community colleges – some of the consortia involve all the community colleges in a single state, others have members from several states – that competed among a total of 200 groups for the money. Each group is required to have a business or industry partner.
The planned programs range from training middle managers for manufacturing jobs to educating more nurses and other health professionals. In announcing the award during a conference call with reporters, Solis said, “This initiative is about providing access to training that leads to real jobs.”
The largest award, almost $25 million, was won by a consortium of colleges led by Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Va. The colleges hope to raise their graduation rates by 50 percent and increase the number of students from underserved populations by 75 percent, largely by offering a new Health Sciences Career Studies certificate and providing more support for nontraditional students.
Kanter noted that the money may also be used for capacity building, especially at colleges where there are profound shortages of classroom space and faculty to teach classes.
In addition to the grants announced today, each state that did not qualify in the competition will receive a minimum of $2.7 million for similar programs. Kanter said the Labor and Education departments will work with those states to determine an appropriate initiative.
For a listing of the winning proposals, click here.