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. worriedmom

    Ok I will never knock education but just how is this gonna be paid for??? I would like to know statistics of the people that are currently out of work, how many actually have degrees? I worked in the education system and I can tell you there are those that take complete advantage of grants, unemployment and have no intention of getting a job. I think if people are gonna be given this opportunity, contracts should be made to do some type of community/volunteer service back to the country.

    May 8, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Thrill Up My Leg

    Thanks! obama saves the planet! And I thought the economy was pretty crappy right now.

    Just keep telling the lies but soon enough people will start wondering why fewer jobs are available.

    May 8, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. Check your facts!

    A hand up is more beneficial in the long run than a hand out.

    ... and if you think education is expensive – try ignorance!

    May 8, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  4. Mahagwa

    This is truly looking ahead. Aparently the president and his team have come to the realization that in order for USA to compete, the USA needs an able and ready population. By encouraging people to go back to school and sharpen their skills, the administration is preparing the country for the future. This is a great chess you always thinks two to three steps ahead.
    The next step would be to encourage employers to focus their hiring within the US, and re-consider their hiring requirements..thus, even though someone may have spent 15 years working in manufacturing, then they go to school and get a degree in engineering, the employer should consider both their employment in manufacturing as well as their newly minted degree in making the hiring decision. It is a team effort america, and it seems we have sound leadership.

    May 8, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. Tulsa

    An educated population can better adapt to the changing job market. This lays the foundation for an economic re-birth for our people. Not only that, but the more educated people are, the less they will rely on old worn out rhetoric from the right. It is a fact that educated people are more likely to be Democrats.

    May 8, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Randolph Carter (Formerly Some Guy)

    I've been saying for years that what this country needs is a paid apprenticeship system for those who don't finish high school. It would be open to U.S. citizens only. It should be in fields where the jobs can never be outsourced. Fields like: Healthcare, construction, transportation, food service, HVAC/maintenence, forestry, agriculture, auto mechanics, plumbing/electrical, etc.

    By the way, some right wing kook started posting as "Some Guy" today. It's not me. Hence my name change. Have a nice day!

    May 8, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  7. Mississippi Mike

    Excellent. He is educating people for jobs that won't exist because of his anti-capitalist policies and high tax rates. Next he is going to send every US citizen a set of horse shoes in hopes that a pony will magically appear under every Christmas tree this winter.

    May 8, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. Chi Town

    Nice... so now people can draw money, not worry about losing benifits cause they enrolled in basket weaving... not find a job... and live off other working people.

    Perfect... a whole country of democrats... no wonder there are so many... its an easy, lazy, worthless, unproductive life... soaps and youtube all day long... change you can believe in... and someone else picks up your tab for you... perfect utopia... unless of course you work for a living.

    May 8, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. Mike In Inglewood

    Excellent practical thinking. I think there are a lot of Americans who want to go out and make themselves more employable, but haven't had access to the resources (particularly financial) to assist them to become more competitive in the present and future work environment.

    May 8, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. Jeff from Atlanta

    Let's see, if we give money to companies, there better be strings attached, so why not when we give money to individuals?

    I think this would be a good idea if the money has to be repaid when employment is found, there is a placement program to find jobs that so people can not just refuse employment if they took the cash, and if they drop out, they owe it back immediately, and certain grade levels must be maintained in order to keep receiving the money.

    How's that for a start or are some of you going to say that is unfair? And would that be the same people who think it's fair on companies?

    May 8, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  11. just truth

    thats all and great but when the state gov. keeps cutting education benefits and teaching positions it won't do a hell of alot. there has to be employment to be had and in washington state is loosing more and more employers every day. the unemployment offices screw around and find any thing to deny you unemployment claims however possible!!

    May 8, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. dominican mama 4 Obama

    I love the fact that President Obama does not opt for the "band-aid" quick fix to a problem, but instead looks ahead to long-term solutions. Just another reason why so many of us, Dem and Rep alike, voted for this man. He has vision, he sees beyond the here and now.
    Way to go President Obama: teach them how to fish...

    May 8, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  13. Sue Wallace

    I think that is an excellent idea. I will definitely will go back to school to complete my undergrad if I get laid off from my job

    May 8, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  14. Robin

    And then Welfare can go away forever and ever. Amen!

    May 8, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. stormerF

    We need more educated,Un-Employeed like we need another car company...We need Jobs not,welfare Education.What good is it to lose your house and car,while your are going to school to get an education to do what,write a better resume? Compete against younger more able College age students,who up on graduation will take a lower pay for a job,because they have no responsibility,of Family,kids to feed,house payment to make,insurance,medical payments,etc,etc..... We need jobs not more Educated Un-Employeed.

    May 8, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  16. Susan, Macedon New York

    I think this was a general plan and that the details will be worked out so that the person receiving unemployment benefits and education grants must be enrolled in a career-tract curriculum and must graduate in a specified time or have to pay the money back.

    Education is the silver bullet that will help end poverty, people! Don't you get that?

    May 8, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  17. Melissa

    Good idea. Problem is, having a good education doesn't guarantee a job. Competition is fierce for these types of jobs.

    May 8, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  18. Joe USA Retired

    I am all for education. But if you want education that is paid for partly or entirly by the government then you need to put back in to society. It doesn't have to be military service but can be cleaning the highways, Peace Corp or many other volunteer experiences. And don't tell me you can't do both at the same time. I work full time and take 3 cousrse semester to finish my degree. Don't even go there. There are many ways to not just get a lending hand. I have to be honest. I served 22 years in the army as a Green Beret and was away from my family ALOT. Now people want free education and free health care. I made a choice in my life for these benefits. Now folks just want them. Again, no prob with the handouts, but they need to do community service or join the military.

    May 8, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  19. angie

    This country really needs to overhaul its entire public education system because we are in no position to call ourselves "#1" when developing countries rank higher in the math and sciences than we do! And after talking to many public school teachers, the "No Child Left Behind" is a waste of time and has inadvertantly done more harm than good. We're raising a generation of children that accept mediocrity because we no longer take the time to encourage and push our children to excel and yet some people have the audacity to criticize Obama's attempt at educating the public? Ignorance really is bliss, isn't it?

    May 8, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. Moderate Democrat, why are we using this money to educate our OWN people. We need to be using this money to kill our kids in foreign lands in illegal wars! Why oh why are we helping our own country! This is SO unamerican to spend OUR money on US and OUR own people rather then kill our children so we don't have to educate them!

    Man oh man, what's this country coming to? Helping our own people and stuff rather then killing innocent people in foreign lands!

    May 8, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  21. Cowboy in West Texas

    Depends on the education – skills would be a better action word – lots of the people I know can pound a computer key board but can't use a hammer. Remember – the stimulus was for shovel ready jobs – not much air conditioned work there! Woudn't hurt if they could make change too – seems ever store I go in has a help wanted sign.

    May 8, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  22. Ghost of Ithaca

    Another great idea for the unemployed by the Obama Administration. As an unemployed individual this suggestion is a long way comming and I hope that anyone who wishes to update their education and career, that they take advantage of this great deal.

    May 8, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  23. Rick

    Hey Mr. Pres. maybe you want to focus on all the kids that are not getting a good education first.
    My state just CUT education funding for K-12 because they have no money. The alleged stimulus money that is supposed to go to education has so many strings attached that it is all but useless.
    Cut the strings and let us parents decide where it NEEDS to go, not some politician. I was just notified that 30% of the teachers at my daughters' school will not be returning next year. Class sizes are being increased to 40 students per class and ALL after school sports are being eliminated.

    Let the grown ups fend for themselves.
    The kids need it more.

    May 8, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  24. tedious898

    Hey Posters.....its really easy to tell the GOPers commenting on this article.

    They will be the ones saying "education bad, expensive for the tax payers – yahda yahda"

    Here's the argument in a nut shell – If we had a educated electorate in 2000 and 2004, we wouldn't have ended up with GWB and our country in shambles THINK ABOUT IT!

    The GOP wants all of America stupid and ignorant. President Obama knows education opens up opportunities

    May 8, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  25. Bill

    These days, you need to be on the front edge of technology in order to be competitive in the job market. There are also people who are changing careers in orders to find a job and they need education in entirely new fields. The President's plan is just what is needed. Thank you Mr. President for listening and acting!

    May 8, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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