President Barack Obama is expected to announce today an initiative to invest $12 billion in community colleges nationwide over the next 10 years. According to today's Detroit News, Components of the initiative to be announced today will include $9 billion to fuel community college challenge grants, $2.5 billion for construction and renovation of buildings and $500 million for online curriculum development. The initiative will get under way within the first six months of 2010. However, the President has said, "Our community colleges can serve as 21st century job training centers, working with local businesses to help workers learn the skills they need to fill the jobs of the future. We can reallocate funding to help them modernize their facilities, increase the quality of online courses and ultimately meet the goal of graduating 5 million more Americans from community colleges by 2020." This is welcomed news as community colleges will rely less and less on the state to provide funding. In fact, more community colleges are finding more funding available at a federal level.

In May, the president outlined measures to make it easier for the unemployed to pursue a degree or training and get help paying for it. Through the White House Automotive Task Force, funding also is being made available to communities negatively affected by the auto industry.

According to the Detroit News, the Labor Department is providing job search services to approximately 15,000 auto workers affected by permanent plant closures through emergency grants. It also has boosted Small Business Administration loans to auto, boat and recreational vehicle dealers.

Today's announcement by the President provides great impetus for community colleges to aggressively seek federal funding for a variety of programs and projects that will help the President achieve his goals of increasing community college enrollment. For example, many community colleges throughout the country have received federal funds for nursing programs, workforce and job training related programs, homeland security and other opportunities.

In fact, here is just a sampling of federal funding individual community colleges will receive in FY 2010:

$200,000 to the Riverside Community College for construction of the School of Nursing in Riverside, California; $250,000 for Metropolitan Community College of Omaha, Nebraska, for construction of a Health Careers Center; $72,750 to the Southwest Tennessee Community College for expansion of a biotechnology building in Memphis, Tennessee; $97,000 to Hudson County Community College for construction of Union City Campus in Union City, New Jersey; $397,000 to Southeast Community College (Cumberland, KY) for facilities and equipment for an allied health training facility. (This is a continuation of the FY 2004 project that will be used to renovate 69,900 gross sq. ft. of an existing building to create the Southeast Education Alliance Center); $2,000,000 to Waubonsee Community College (Sugar Grove, IL) for science building at Waubonsee Community College in Illinois; $317,000 to Clatsop Community College, Astoria, OR, for equipment and technology for its Technology for Student Access Initiative; $250,000 to the Riverside Community College in Riverside, California for facilities construction and renovation improvements; $250,000 to the Montgomery County Community College for facilities construction of the Small Business Development & University Transfer Center in Pottstown, PA; $200,000 to Polk Community College, Lakeland, FL for a corporate college program; $99,000 to South Seattle Community College, WA for apprenticeship training programs; $199,000 to Central Maine Community College, for education programs, student recruitment and marketing activities; $50,000 to Dutchess Community College, Poughkeepsie, NY, for the upgrade of the college computer network; $317,000 to the Community College of Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, for it's Closing the Gap college preparation and retention initiative for minority students, including student scholarships; $96,000 to Washington State Community College in Marietta, Ohio for construction of a conference center; $248,000 to Western Nevada Community College to create an Occupational Therapy Assistant program; $496,000 to Iowa Lakes Community College to create a Wind Energy and Turbine Technology education program; $422,000 to Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, OH for equipment and programming for the Centers for Nursing and Health Careers; and, $397,000 to West Shore Community College (Scottsville, MI) for workforce investment and training for unemployed individuals'.

The President also has said that, "Without community colleges, millions of people would not be able to access the education and skills they need to further education or succeed in the workplace." And last month, Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff said, "What's been forgotten is how important our community college system is to the economy. As a competitive advantage for the United States, the community college system is essential, and the administration is intent on boosting funding for growth of the system.”

There are a number of community colleges throughout the country, including here in Michigan, that have recognized a renewed focus on community colleges by Congress and the President. In fact, a number of them have retained lobbyists to advocate on their behalf for individual earmarks and to help direct federal public policies that will affect their college, their research and the programs they provide the students and community. In Michigan, specifically, the following community colleges have retained outside lobbying counsel:

Schoolcraft College Kalamazoo Valley Community College Lansing Community College Mott Community College Oakland Community College Wayne County Community College

The following Michigan (public) universities and colleges have some sort of federal advocacy effort now under way and already retained an outside lobbying firm:

Eastern Michigan University Ferris State Grand Valley State Lake Superior State Michigan Technological University (uses in house counsel) Northern Michigan University Oakland University Central Michigan University

The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University each have a Washington office and from time to time bring in outside legislative and regulatory counsel, while Saginaw Valley State and Western Michigan University have not retained outside advocates. The following private universities have retained outside lobbying counsel:

University of Detroit Ave Marie Lawrence Tech Michigan Jewish Institute Northwood University Walsh College

In addition to federal funding which is available to community college, Congress is working on a number of other issues that will affect your work. For example, Congress is still debating the Higher Education Authorization Bill with important provisions that will help or hurt students in capturing financial aid. The Labor-HHS bill actually increases funding for the NIH and NSF.

With the state of Michigan scaling back their budget, particularly the funding for community colleges, it is important that community colleges turn to the federal government for financial support, particularly at such a crucial time in Michigan's history. Our community colleges can provide Michigan with the economic lifeline for retraining and retooling an aging workforce and help us move forward into the next economy.