May 8th, 2009
12:25 PM ET
5 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. G NO P

    Chi Town May 8th, 2009 12:35 pm ET

    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.

    I hope you lose your job so you can experience first hand what a miserable excuse for a human being you really are. Republicans don't want people to educate themselves because it means there will be fewer Republicans

    May 8, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. Randolph Carter (Formerly Some Guy)

    Education funding is bad say the haters. And then y'all wonder why all the doctors and engineers don't look like us and have funny names and accents. Have a nice day!

    May 8, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. John

    Education assistance for the unemployed?

    Won't Republicans oppose education because its a form of socialism? that is likely to be weaken and corrupt America?

    May 8, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. OBarma is Destroying the United States

    I get it he is Santa Claus, and he has an endless pot of money, called the generational theft fund. With Obarfa, you get something for nothing, or was that something for either the bankrupting of our future, the massive increases in taxes for all of us, and skyrocketing inflation, devaluation of our currency and a great deal of misery in the not too distant future.

    Too bad too many of you Santa Clause Obama kool aid drinking liberals live in the fantasy world of make believe and can't see past the smile and big ears and look at the massive debt and cost this generational theft will cost all of us.

    May 8, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  5. sensi johnson

    I appluad the president for his vision and challenge the unemploy to take advantage of this opportunity. To the nay sayers if you think education is expensive, try ignorance and you'll find out the hard way. Remember! The last eight years is living proof. Bravo! Mr. President bravo!

    May 8, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. mjm

    So the government is going to pay people to go to school?

    May 8, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  7. connie

    hey tedius the majority of people who voted for obama were uneducated . and why is the Obama is the only getting credit for saying we need more education, i have been hearing and knowing that for years but now that Obama says it then anything that anybody has said for years is what just lies.

    May 8, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. alvino

    We can either spend the money on education, or go the GOP way, and spend the money building more prisons.

    May 8, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. Steve In Tampa

    More folks hustled into the indoctrination centers for a briefing, then on to the union halls, and government offices.

    Noting comes without a price.

    Saw this go on when I was in college. Lots of people being "trained" for jobs that weren't' available, and they really didn't want, though it was a nice place to tread water on the government dime.....

    Every system gets abused.

    May 8, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. mj

    this will be great if the new tax codes do not run all the companies that produce jobs out of this country.

    May 8, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  11. Steve In Tampa

    How about taking money from the prison system, and putting it towards educating youth, not re educating those who did not seize the opportunity when it originally presented itself.

    So far, this new president has made a lot of talk, but what has actually happened, except a bunch of liberals heads nodding?

    Line by line examination of bills before passage, and public vetting?

    Keep that promise first.

    May 8, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. Shasta

    Jeff: "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."

    I agree, but there's a big problem with that. We do that now for people on assistance who want help going back to school on the government dime. They drop out and owe, but of course they can't pay it back. If they could have paid in the first place, they wouldn't be asking the government to pay. It's essentially a huge risk for the government- they put money into these people's education, and if something goes wrong, then that's money lost.

    May 8, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  13. Charm

    I think it's great that there will be help for the unemployed to get re-education, but I really think that we left all our children behind with No Child Left Behind. The program has had a devastating affect on our children's education and it shows now in the rate of drop-outs and the amount of illiterate adults we now have in our population. Children in 2nd and 3rd world countries are bi and sometimes tri-lingual and kick our children's butts in math and sciences! Our children hold the key to the future of our country. Let's not fail them by not providing them the education they need so they can obtain the knowledge and skills to compete on a global scale.

    May 8, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. Charlotte

    This sounds like a good idea, with a reasonably well-thought-out implementation. Education, for those dopes who think this is just for computer jockeys, includes all forms of advancement, including SKILLS. Don't pooh-pooh it just because you're an uneducated dolt yourself. Don't be afraid of our own people getting educated just because you bought into the "ignorance is American" mantra of the Bush administration. The best way to get a burden on society back as a contributing member is to help him/her gain the skills and knowledge to become a wage earner again. A far better investment than pouring money down a rathole called war.

    May 8, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Lori

    Educating the uneducated means President Obama only has to focus this policy on 21% of the American population- the Republicans! Good job Mr. President. The smarter they become, the more likely they'll join the rest of the majority and vote for you and the Democrats in the coming year(s)!

    May 8, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. Andi

    Don't blame the Democrats. They had to cut a good deal of education funding from the Economic Recovery Act/Plan because the GOP/Jindhal/McConnell/Boner cabal said it was 'wasteful'. If the GOP really wants to help the US economically, maybe they can convince all their buddies who own big corporations to bring all our jobs back from overseas, eh?

    May 8, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. Proud DHS radical

    If employers are not hiring, you're stuck!

    May 8, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  18. DeborahKansas City

    I love our President. He is sooo working on everything he promised. I'm sorry for the haters and paranoid freaks. We finally have an excellent man leading our country and they can't see it for the hate. I suggest they move to Texas or Alaska, because they would fit right in, with all the other backward looking zealots.

    May 8, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  19. David

    tedious898: Apparently obama wants to educate everyone but you....the ENTIRE idea of liberals is to keep blacks uneducated and unemployed because if they get educated, then they will have the doors to unlimited opportunity open and if that happens....uh oh...they might not NEED TO DEPEND ON OUR GOVERNMENT...which would result in them not being democrats...because dependency is the definition of liberalism...

    May 8, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. Dennis

    For those of you who think increasing the amount of money available to people living in poverty or have lost a manufacturing job will do the trick, you are sadly mistaken. I agree that everyone that wants to attend college should do so as long as they are serious about it. Our colleges are full of non-serious students who take advantage of pell grants until they find a job making 10 to 15 dollars per hour. In order to be successful at a university, you need to have buy-in. Maybe as some have suggested, provide some service after you complete your degree, or if you do not finish, a portion must be paid back. All of this putting money into education sounds great but it will not work if people do not have buy-in.

    May 8, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. Sharon

    I am really happy about this opportunity. My son is one of the numeous african american males in south carolina that can't find employment. He would like to go to school to get his barber's training and a lic. But in south carolina if you get unemployment you can not attend school and we are saddled with a Gov. that seems to be campaigning for a Republican Presidency by allowing the africian americans in his state o suffer

    May 8, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  22. Moderate Democrat

    On a serious note, I just don't hear what the republicans are saying other then they want to complain and/or ignore all problems. It's almost as if they WANT to have something to complain about.

    Unemployed: Don't educate them, let them make no money, but don't let them have welfare, they should have a job, but don't train them to get a job, they should be unemployed. It's a big circle jerk. They have created a circular path that allows them to do nothing but complain and then act as if they aren't the ones CAUSING the problem, when they ARE the whole problem of why nothing is ever FIXED!

    May 8, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  23. Erik

    Thank you Mr. President! In New Mexico, if you start going to school, your unemployment is cut off immediately.

    May 8, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  24. cookie-cutter liberal

    This sounds great! Now I just need to get laid off and go back to college to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a community organizer, or maybe even a constitutional..... just one step closer to being like you Barack Obama (and I just might name my sixth kid after you, because everyone says it's such a cool name!).

    May 8, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  25. Brad - California

    We spend billions to care for people who have no right even being in our country and our congress of lunatics has placed the needs of Americans at the bottom of the list.

    Americans deserve it. And while we're at it, do something about the cost of college for all Americans. In California, the UC President just received a raise to $400,000 a year while increasing student fees by $600 a year at the same time. And California legislators are already trying to take educational funding and move it into the general fund through a mandated upcoming special vote which costs the county in which I live $700,000.

    The democrats are wrong, the republicans are wrong. Somewhere there's got to be someone in government who wants to see Americans succeed.

    Screw that same old question... "where is the money going to come from?" Whatever the cost, Obama is right! But stop spreading what little we have around the rest of the planet and put it to work here in the United States. Stop dumping more and more into financial institutions and auto manufacturers and start doing something for Americans.

    May 8, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
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