May 8th, 2009
12:25 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama announces education help for unemployed

The president spoke about the importance of education Friday.

The president spoke about the importance of education Friday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama announced new steps to help unemployed Americans Friday, targeting people out of work who want to go back to school.

The president outlined a plan under which the Department of Education will send colleges legal guidance encouraging them to increase financial aid packages for the unemployed so they can enroll in educational and training programs, while keeping their unemployment benefits.

Under Obama's initiative, colleges would consider a person's current financial situation to make it possible for them to receive Pell grants, which are available for low-income students. The unemployed person would not lose any unemployment benefits and the maximum Pell grant would be increased in July by
$500 to $5,350.

The Labor Department will also issue guidance "strongly encouraging" states to modernize their rules to allow more unemployed to continue their education without forfeiting their benefits.

"In a twenty-first century economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, education is the single best bet we can make," Obama said.

The unemployment system should not just be a safety net, but "a stepping stone to a new future. ... It should offer folks educational opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have, and give them the measurable and differentiated skills they need to not just get through these hard times, but to get ahead when the economy comes back."

Obama's remarks came shortly after the government announced that the unemployment rate hit a 25-year high in April, rising to 8.9 percent from 8.5. percent in March. There were signs of hope, however, as the monthly job loss
total fell to the lowest level in six months.

Current unemployment rules create a catch-22: In most cases, if you are receiving unemployment compensation you have to be actively looking for a job.
If you want to get more education or training, you have to give up unemployment
benefits. If you return to school, you also don't qualify for federal education grants since, in most cases, your qualification is based on your previous year's income.

Filed under: Economy • Education • Obama administration • President Obama
soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. TomJay

    Maybe he should educate the unemployed with college and medical school so that we can have more primary care physicians. Or maybe the unemployed can be educated with legal training so they can take the jobs of the lawyers who make too much. Here is the chance to see if the people who think doctors and lawyers make too much are willing to be educated and trained for those professions.

    May 8, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  2. Terry

    To repugs who dare bash this one – your obtuse reasoning indicates that you did not attend a good school and thanks to Obama, America can start weeding out morons like you through fierce and genuine competition rather the nepotism and proxy arrangements we see all too often from your ilk. Read the President's plan clearly before wasting your time posting utter nonesense.

    May 8, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  3. Tien

    Wrong. Our children need this more. Adults can take care of themselves, kids cannot.

    May 8, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. Dan from Sacto

    This is a very smart and encouraging idea. The #1 reason why employers don't like employing those that have not worked in some time is because the general fact is they have been collecting unemployment and thus, essentially not allowed to train, or educate.

    This is a very practical and pragmatic form of progressive politics that both conservative and liberal should adamantly support.

    May 8, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  5. rachae

    No, chi-town no you cannot enroll in only training that are short term and in hign need like lpn and alike. You are not going be able to enroll in something that is in decline or not employable.

    May 8, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. Citizen KV

    If anyone has personally or has had a child use the state lottery scholarship (in many southern states) here is a newsflash for you- the government paid for you or your kid to go to college. Better still, the poor who think they can hit the jackpot paid for the education. There are ways to get people to fund these scholarships- you just have to be creative. In GA we got higher education for high school grads with a 3.0, state-sponsored Pre-K, and returning student scholarships for adults changing jobs or going back to school out of one program.

    May 8, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  7. Neil

    It's good press, but it's meaningless. All he is doing is encouraging states to change policy. There isn't even any incentives attached. Without the money to pay for the changes, the states, even if they wanted to act on the initiative, won't be able to afford it for at least two years. By that time the unemployment rate will increase another 2-3 million. We don't need education. We need jobs. Now.

    May 8, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  8. milt pay for it!

    May 8, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. President George Hussien Washington

    Rush Limbaugh will have something negative to say about this: You see, his argument would be that if someone as ignorant as him can find success in bigotry then all other americans should be able to find success in their passion. Rush suggested that Colin Powell becone a Democrat.. stating that he supported Obama soley on race. this ignorant fool needs to go back, oh he flunked out of college I forgot... I dont remember General Powell (a man who in the words of Ms. Palin "Really fought for his country") endorseing Sharpton or Jackson for president. Just be honest Rush, you'd wish that all African americans would leave ole dixie and join the Democrats; well sorry but I'm not leaving the Republican party, but I have a better idea: How about you leaving the party and renewing your membership with the Klan! I bet this doesnt post

    May 8, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. mike

    How much will this cost me??

    May 8, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. MY president!

    awesome. Great job, Mr. President.

    May 8, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  12. Michael

    This country needs to stop defining people as just another resource for industrial use, and realize that the whole point of having industry is to improve the quality of life for our entire nation. The US economy should benefit all US citizens: we all live here, we all work here; we should all share in the profits made by our labor and consumption.
    This land was made for you and me!

    May 8, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  13. Dee, NJ

    Thank You! As Pop-Pop, my grandchildren will be my STAR!

    May 8, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. Carol Myers

    Pres. Clinton did the same thing in the 90's and I know of three that live in my neighborhood that couldn't find a job and were welfare. They used the program for nursing and now work, pay taxes and have never been on welfare since. Education is the only way and if the gov. pays for education it would still be cheap at half the price because guess what folks they are not on welfare.
    Carol from Ohio

    May 8, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. kgeukes

    I love Barack Obama but he needs to realize that most of the people that are unemployed are NOT receiving unemployment benefits so that makes going back to school nearly impossible if you have a family to feed and you just need to go to work. Right now I'd be happy with a minimum wage job to pay for groceries!!!!! I live in MI and things are really tight. My husband works and we just had to file Chapter 13 to keep our home. I don't need schooling at 54 I need a job!!!!!!!

    May 8, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  16. rkade

    Good job obama.most people on this board and fox news and the GOP think people that are unemployed are lazy and dont want to work .i lost my job cause of all the free trade the GOP offer to company to ship there jobs over seas.we know the GOP solution for poor and unemployed people is "F..k them"

    May 8, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. No More Incumbents

    Now, if he'd only educate the voters..........

    May 8, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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