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Obama Seeks $12 Billion for Community Colleges

U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for a $12 billion investment in two-year colleges, to help train millions of Americans who are out of work. The president made his case Tuesday in the state with the nation's worst unemployment rate.

To underscore his call for more education spending, President Obama went to Michigan, where unemployment has topped 14 percent.

"We have got to prepare our people with the skills they need to compete in this global economy," he said. "Time and again, when we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result."

At a two-year college in Warren, Michigan, Mr. Obama proposed spending $12 billion over the next decade to build, expand and improve the nation's community colleges. He said those colleges, where people are trained for trades and professions, are an essential part of America's economic recovery and its future prosperity.

The president stressed that jobs requiring at least an associate's degree are expected to grow twice as quickly as those that do not.

"We will not fill those jobs, or even keep those jobs here in America, without the training offered by community colleges," he said.

Mr. Obama has said he wants the U.S. to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. His administration has increased grants and tax credits for college tuition and simplified college aid applications.

"So we have already taken some steps that are building the foundation for a 21st-century education system here in America, one that will allow us to compete with China and India and everybody else all around the world," said the president.

Despite Mr. Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus legislation, which was enacted in February, the nation's unemployment rate has hit a 26-year high of 9.5 percent. And the president admitted Tuesday he expects it to continue rising for the next few months.

Republicans in Congress have said the president's economic initiatives cost too much and are not effective.