The state Board of Education announced last week it would ask lawmakers for $408 million next budget year for two-year colleges, a 29 percent increase.
With a tight education budget that still owes money to the Alabama Trust Fund rainy day account, it’s unlikely legislators will approve the increase.
They probably won’t even take it seriously.
What they should take seriously is how pivotal two-year colleges — including Calhoun Community College in Decatur — are to the mission the governor and legislators claim to have.
Skilled labor is critical to Alabama’s efforts to increase employment and increase a median wage that is among the lowest in the nation. By underfunding the colleges that provide occupational training, the state is forcing them to increase tuition. Especially because the tuition hikes are coming at the same time as tightened restrictions on federal Pell grants, the result is to preclude Alabama residents from acquiring the skills they need for good jobs.
Throwing money at a problem may not solve it. If our elected officials are serious about their focus on industrial recruitment and better jobs, though, they must look for ways to increase access to two-year colleges.
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