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Obama trying to boost free community college plan

By NANCY BENAC
Associated Press

WARREN, Mich. (AP) - With his plan for two years of free community college stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to put more oomph behind state and local programs that provide what he's been unable to offer nationally.

Obama was teaming up with Jill Biden, a community college professor and the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to visit Macomb Community College in Michigan. They planned to announce an independent College Promise Advisory Board, led by Jill Biden, that will highlight existing programs that provide free community college.

The board will try to recruit more states and communities to do likewise and feature celebrities in a public awareness campaign to press for tuition-free community college.

It's a return trip for Obama, who visited the school in 2009 to announce a series of administration efforts to bolster community colleges. He followed up earlier this year with a $60 billion proposal in his State of the Union address to make two years of community college free.

Conceding a lack of interest in that plan from the Republican-controlled Congress, domestic policy adviser Cecilia Munoz said the advisory board will try to build momentum for the idea "so that Congress will do what the people are asking for." In the past six months, Oregon and Minnesota have started statewide programs, and local efforts are under way in Philadelphia; Dayton, Ohio, and Palatine, Illinois, she said.

Obama also was announcing $175 million in Labor Department grants to help create 34,000 apprenticeships around the country.

The trip will give the public a closer look at Jill Biden as her husband considers a run for president. She is said to share her husband's concern about the family's emotional readiness for another campaign following the recent death of their son, Beau, although her spokesman has said she continues to support the vice president in his career. In an email to supporters, Obama called Biden, who teaches English, his "favorite community college instructor."

Jill Biden flew aboard Air Force One with Obama, exited the airplane with him after they arrived and joined him in the limousine for the ride to campus, where they headed for a tour of a technical education center.

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