Representative Bradley Byrne

Representing the 1st District of Alabama

Byrne Statement on Obama Community College Proposal

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Jan 9, 2015
Press Release
Proposal not a “legitimate” effort to close skills gap, Byrne says

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and former chancellor of Alabama’s two year college system, criticized a plan announced by President Barack Obama today to make community college free for students.

Under the President’s proposal, a new partnership would be created with states to waive tuition for “responsible students.”  According to the New York Times, the federal government would cover three-quarters of the cost while states would be expected to cover the remaining costs.

Congressman Byrne questioned the legitimacy of the plan and noted that it would likely lead to unintended consequences.

Byrne said: “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.

“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.”

As chancellor of Alabama’s two year college system, Byrne funded scholarships aimed at pushing more students into high demand skill areas. Byrne also worked with individual community colleges to tailor their curriculum toward the region’s economic needs.

Byrne said: “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.

“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.”