President Obama has won plaudits for saying and doing the right things when it comes to the importance of the nation’s community colleges, but the current situation is so bleak that his plan may not be enough:

Much of the money for the nation’s 1,200 community colleges comes from local and state sources. That funding has been hard to come by during the economic downturn, even as enrollment booms. In California, community colleges are struggling to cope with $840 million in budget cuts while enrollment is expected to climb.

Obama’s 10-year initiative would provide a welcome infusion of cash, but some fear it would not sustain community college programs.

“They will be constrained by funding,” says [Debra] Bragg [, a professor and director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the University of Illinois]. “It could be potentially extremely challenging if there’s not increased funding at the federal, state and local level to make that happen.”

Given that more than half of the undergraduates in the United States go to community colleges, calling this “important” would be an understatement.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.