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. Michelle in Texas

    It's funny how everyone calls the electorate "uneducated" – at least those who elected President Bush – yet research has proven that on average those with the highest levels of educational achievement are usually Republican. But that's a different argument.

    I think this educational initiative is a good one. We need to do all we can to make education available to those who need it the most. It's not fair to choose between unemployment benefits and getting the training that you need in order to get a job. States need to adopt this measure immediately for the coming academic year.

    May 8, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  2. jc

    Agree 100% with a couple of the posters. Before people receive free money like this, they should have to actually contribute to the country or community. Peace corps, military, volunteer service, etc.

    The concept is nice, but it has the possibility of abuse and corruption written all over it.

    May 8, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  3. yuri

    But then the fear and hate mongerin' GOP will sure as heck cry foul and start pickin' holes in anything that the Dems offer as a reform.

    May 8, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  4. Peggy - TX

    Unfortunately economists predict that low unemployment is a lagging indicator of a rebounding economy. By helping people obtain retraining and improve the credentials, the currently unemployed will be better able to recover once the economy improves. Also, the better educated work force will be a benefit to businesses large and small.

    The bitter GOPers will criticize anything and every thing President Obama does. Their comments are so obviously nonsensical, it is hardly worth the effort to point that out.

    May 8, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  5. Shameful

    more give me give me, more distractions from Obama trying to be a dictator. You are no good and wastfull spending just cause debt.

    May 8, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  6. arithmetic is liberal

    The saddest thing of all is that in another time, without bieing strangled by the religous right like kudzu, the Republican Party would have been the ones to think up this idea.

    Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day;
    teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

    May 8, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  7. Mike in MN

    Hey, I'm a conservatrive and voted for McCain and I actually agree with Obama that many unemployeed may need to be retrained.
    But is this just supposed to be paid for out of the stimulus? How will the states fund this when the stimulus runs out? What will stop people from just gaming the system, show up for classes and just sit there and text and twitter or sleep in class while they collect a check.
    I can support this as part of the stimulus. I need more details about how this would work as permant program, what is the cost, how paid for and the rules involved to prevent it being gamed by dead beats.

    May 8, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  8. arithmetic is liberal

    Cowboy in West Texas May 8th, 2009 12:53 pm ET

    Woudn't hurt if they could make change too – seems ever store I go in has a help wanted sign.

    Really?! Keep talking like that, and you'll see more Californians in West Texas!

    May 8, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  9. John

    Who the hell is gonna pay for all this spending? The long run says hard working people like you and me. Do you people really believe the rich are gonna pay for all this – WRONG. They will hide their money anyway they can and when Obama says "GUESS WHAT AMERICA I HAVE TO RAISE TAXES CAUSE I WAS STUPID" Everyone in their mother-in-law will vote his ass out. And who will you vote for – I wonder....

    May 8, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Texas Woman

    To chi town and mississippi mike
    You need to vacate your trailers before your minds rot. Talk about two peas in a pod. MORONS! Or should I SAY trailer trash.

    May 8, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  11. sandy

    Thank you Mr. President. There are many people out there I am sure who have lost their jobs and who are willing to take advantage of this package. How can you get educated if you do not have money coming into the home to pay bills. This should have been done a long time ago. And, for the pundits out there, please stop finding fault with everything this man attempts to do. At least, he knows that what we did the last 8 years didn't work so we are going in another direction. I know he has my support and there are milllions more out there who support him, so lets hear from them. Drown the nay-sayers out.

    May 8, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  12. Gary in Portsmouth, VA

    It is great if people get skilled jobs. But one must asked the question. President Obama would never be where he is today without one. I personnally don't think he got elected because he was black and all the black people voted for him. He got elected because he was academically prepared and was a deep thinker.

    May 8, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |

    Cool I hope I get laid off so I can go back to school!

    All of you people that paid for your own education are a bunch of suckers!

    May 8, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  14. Ghost

    It never ceases to amaze me how these conservative folks think that they are the only ones that work. Give us a break, please.

    May 8, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  15. Freeman

    To mississippi mike and chi town
    Get a life and vacate your trailers every once and a while. Your brains are starting to rot. Being White trash is not popular.

    May 8, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  16. yeh

    President Obama is right on educating the unemployed. Had we used 10% of the bailout money for education, we would have fared much better.

    May 8, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  17. Billy J in Texas

    We need more than just help for the un-employed. Our childrens schools don't have Art, Music, or P.E. They don't have a safe environment to learn in, because so many children have been abandoned for all practical purposes by their Jerry Springer, Judge Judy audience parents. This nation needs to shame parents into taking responsibility for their kids. From every angle the message should be "what are you doing to ensure your child grows up to have a better life than yours". Churches, Commercials, Programs, Billboards... It really ought to be a top priority of our nation, if we are to have any kind of future worth living in.

    May 8, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  18. Greg from MA

    To everyone talking about how this is just a giveaway:

    Pell grants need to be repaid, starting 12 months after you've finished the deferment period. My wife has one from when we were in college.

    May 8, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. Frankie

    I had lost my factory job to Mexico NAFTA and had the opportunity to go to school as well as collect unemployment and now am working in the medical field and loving it. i think this is a great idea, but many like myself still could not afford to go to school because unemployment was not enough to keep them afloat with their families still. They had to work more than one job. I could do it because my husband has a pretty good job.

    May 8, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  20. Susan

    I have a great idea for colleges, too. If you give an athlete a scholarship and he does not graduate, but leaves with no degree and a big signing bonus, he MUST repay his scholarship in full out of said bonus. That way, the scholarships are self-sustaining, because how many of these jokers jump on a scholarship to a big school with no intention of ever getting a degree? Lots of them. Then at least the school hasn't lost its investment.

    May 8, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  21. w.l. jones

    This is a change we Democratic lone for a change to go and get an good education. The conservative got theirs education off the poor Dem. for many many years without complaning now this Adminatration trying to even the playing field ."Well" done Mr. President.

    May 8, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. Wolves 4 Palin Charlotte, NC

    The man is trying, unlike his predecessor who serve eight years in abstentia, except for war and torture.

    May 8, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  23. Lucy

    If you keep the people healthy, and educated, they are much more difficult to control. Obama rocks!

    May 8, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Peter E

    Education is always a good investement for the country. People really need to stop complaining about how much they pay in taxes for education. Do you know how much more it costs you in taxes to keep people in prison, the people you constantly complain didn't get enough education? Check your state's budget! It'll be a real eye opener!
    It's cheaper, more sensible, safer, and better for our our economy as well if we invest even more of our taxdollars in education. The alternative, paying for their prison cells later in life is a lot more expensive.

    May 8, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. tim

    Obama is right, education is essential in the global economy. I hope the union pukes take advantage of the program instead of complaining about their unskilled jobs going away.

    May 8, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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