- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2005

ARNOLD, Md. — Anne Arundel Community College, with its more than 52,000 students and a curriculum emphasizing job training, provided a backdrop yesterday for President Bush to promote his program to make the nation’s community colleges a key player in training workers for 21st-century jobs.

“Community colleges are available. They are affordable. They are flexible,” Mr. Bush said.

Congress approved $250 million in the current budget for work-force training at community colleges, and “now the money is going to start heading out,” the president told about 800 people who filled the college auditorium for an hourlong program.

The president, joined on the gymnasium stage by five other participants, including Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., led a discussion on the role two-year colleges play in preparing students for jobs in fields where there is a high demand by employers.

“It’s important to have a place of higher education that has got the capacity to adjust its curriculum to meet the needs of an employer,” Mr. Bush said.

Martha Smith, Anne Arundel Community College president, said her college regularly consults with private employers to determine their needs, and can rapidly develop courses to train workers.

Two of the participants, Elliott Ward and Jeannette Smith, told personal stories of how they have used community college programs to train for new, better-paying jobs.

Miss Smith said she worked in the textile industry in North Carolina, but went back to community college to become a licensed practical nurse as jobs in the textile industry disappeared overseas.

Now she is taking courses at Anne Arundel that will lead to a nursing degree after she completes an internship. Miss Smith will graduate in May and told Mr. Bush, “You’re invited.”

Mr. Ward, who was a security guard at Johns Hopkins Hospital, pointed to his son, Malcolm, seated in the bleachers, and told Mr. Bush: “I needed a career, something that was going to help me better take care of him.”

With financial help from Johns Hopkins, Mr. Ward completed a course at Baltimore City College to become a certified pharmacy technician. His new goal is to get a degree in pharmacy.

The president’s latest budget request asks Congress for $125 million to promote dual-enrollment programs that allow high school students to earn college credit.

Caitlin Wieland, who is attending classes half the day at Chesapeake High School and half at the community college, said the president’s remarks “really hit home.”

“We know how hard it is to pay for college,” she said.

Before the president’s speech, student Jeanine Adams said two-year colleges “offer a great opportunity for people to go back to school and start their second careers.”

Miss Adams, 35, is working toward a degree in education. She said community colleges are a perfect fit for someone like her who “may not be comfortable in a full-size university.”

“Here, we can get our feet wet, get our two-year degrees and move on, and that’s a good thing,” Miss Adams said.

While Mr. Bush touted his increase in funding for community colleges, Democrats argued that he has cut millions of dollars in work-force development programs.

“The people of Maryland want true commitment to work-force development, not another Washington-style ‘dog and pony show,’” said Terry Lierman, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party.

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