With his plan for two years of free community college stalled in Congress, President Obama is trying to put more oomph behind state and local programs that provide what he's been unable to offer nationally.
Mr. Obama was teaming up with Jill Biden, a community college professor and the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to visit Macomb County Community College in Warren, Michigan, on Wednesday. They planned to announce an independent College Promise Advisory Board, led by Biden, that will highlight existing programs providing free community college. The board will try to recruit more states and communities to do likewise and will also enlist celebrities in a public awareness campaign to press for tuition-free community college.
It will be a return visit to the community college for Obama, who went there in 2009 to announce a series of administration efforts to bolster community colleges. He followed that up earlier this year with a $60 billion proposal in his State of the Union address to make two years of community college free.
Conceding a lack of interest in that plan from the Republican-controlled Congress, domestic policy adviser Cecilia Munoz said the advisory board will try to build momentum for the idea "so that Congress will do what the people are asking for." In the past six months, Oregon and Minnesota have started statewide programs, and there are local efforts in Philadelphia; Dayton, Ohio, and Palatine, Illinois, she said.
Obama also was announcing $175 million in Labor Department grants to help create 34,000 apprenticeships around the country.
The trip will give people an opportunity to take a closer look at Biden as her husband is considering a run for president. Jill Biden is said to share her husband's concerns about the family's emotional readiness for another campaign, although her spokesman has said she continues to support her husband in his career. In an email to supporters, Obama called Biden, who teaches English, his "favorite community college instructor."