Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks of Sen. Alexander - Higher Education Access, Affordability and Opportunity Act

Posted on September 14, 2004

Mr. President, it is my pleasure to co-sponsor, The Higher Education Access, Affordability and Opportunity Act being introduced today by Senator Enzi. This legislation is an issue of great concern to Senators and our constituents: job loss. There is really nothing new about job loss in America. Our strength as an economy is not measured by how many jobs we lose; it is measured by how many good new jobs we create to replace those jobs and how well we train those people to fill those jobs. We don't want to lose any jobs. We want to recognize the pain that goes with moving from one job to another. But, the best thing we can do about job loss is to create an environment in which good new jobs can grow and to offer the training resources necessary to hold those jobs Senator Enzi believes, as do I, that a comprehensive approach to creating jobs and training workers is necessary to adapt to the changing demands of the modern economy. The Higher Education Act was enacted to give more students a chance to attend college. It was not intended to be a job training bill, nor should it become one. There is, however, a need to create a stronger partnership between institutions of higher education and the 21st century workforce. The goal of access to higher education and the goal of training a highly skilled workforce are not mutually exclusive. Community colleges are our secret weapons in workforce development. This bill uses our secret weapon to create a competitive grant program to help community colleges develop academic programs focusing on areas of high-growth employment. Among other things, it provides additional subsidized loans for high-growth job sector training programs such as technology and health care. In higher education we focus really on two principles: The first is autonomy and the second is choice. We allow generous amounts of government money to follow students to the schools of their choice. These principles provide students with flexibility to choose among fast moving institutions, and facilitate contracts with businesses. These competitive grants and additional subsidized loans will give local governments both the resources necessary and autonomy to work with their local community colleges to develop programs that will train workers for the jobs that are available within their communities. I will continue to work with Senator Enzi on these important legislative initiatives and make them a part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.