March 31, 2010; Mother Jones | Alongside the health care reform bill, Obama also signed into law major changes to the country’s student loan program. As student advocates rightly celebrate the victory of curbing debts for future university entrants, community colleges are wondering why they were left out of the loop. A portion of the bill, known as the American Graduation Initiative (AGI), promised to be a booster for community colleges. Community Colleges engage 35 to 50 percent of the U.S. student population, and enroll more low-income and minority students than four-year schools, making them integral to a diverse, empowered, and democratic society.
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The White House painted the effort as the most ambitious plan since Truman’s day, proposing to spend $12 billion over ten years to increase enrollment, but in the midst of getting health care reform through Congress, the AGI was gutted. The final bill passed with just $2 billion to fund existing programs. Disabled community college workers are now afforded some much deserved support, but the promised change in the rules of play was not delivered, and these schools are suffering as a result.—James David Morgan