By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, January 9 Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) criticized a plan announced by President Barack Obama on Thursday to make community college free for students.
US Representative Byrne told the Alabama Political Reporter and other press representatives at a news conference that the free two year college suggestion was just a, “Lame duck president scratching for relevance.” Byrne said that President Obama was, “Becoming less and less relevant every day.”
Rep. Byrne said that the President’s estimate costing the federal government only $60 billion over ten years was wrong. The Congress estimates that the actual cost would actually be, “Much higher.”
Congressman Byrne said that free tuition for vocational education and job training is actually the sort of measure that the federal government could do to address the skills gap in southwest Alabama. Byrne called the growing gap between the job skills that employers need and what the work force actually has a, “National crisis.” Byrne dismissed the President’s plan as, “Not a very serious proposal.”
The conservative Alabama Congressman followed those comments with a written press release.
Under the President’s proposal, states would have to provide 25 percent of the costs of the President’s plan.
Congressman Byrne said in his written statement: “You would be hard pressed to find a stronger supporter of the community college system than I am. I have seen firsthand the tremendous work our community colleges can do in helping build a stronger, more skilled workforce. Unfortunately, President Obama’s proposal today again shows he is more interested in making headlines than offering legitimate solutions.”
Rep. Byrne said, “When the President put this proposal forward the White House didn’t even acknowledge how much it would cost or how the Obama administration recommends paying for it. Most states, including Alabama, are already stretched far too thin, and it would be unlikely they could bear the financial burden. Just as bad, this program would likely place even more requirements and bureaucracy on our nation’s institutions of higher learning.”
Rep. Byrne wrote that when he was the chancellor of Alabama’s two year college system he funded scholarships aimed at pushing more students into high demand skill areas. “When I was chancellor of Alabama’s two year system, I created targeted scholarships for students to take dual enrollment classes in high demand skill areas. Programs like this offer a much more legitimate and targeted approach to closing the skills gap and getting Americans back to work. I look forward to using my position on the House Education and the Workforce Committee to work toward realistic solutions.”
Byrne said that he also worked with individual community colleges to tailor their curriculum toward the region’s economic needs.
Rep. Byrne wrote, “We have a real need for more skilled workers in this country, and particularly here in Southwest Alabama. I am committed to finding ways to ensure Americans have the skills they need to attain full employment, but this proposal is not even a serious attempt to move the dialogue forward.”
In announcing his plan President Obama said, “Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for anybody who’s willing to work for it. It’s something we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anyone in the world.”
Congressman Byrne is a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.