President Donald Trump on Thursday repeated his call for a greater emphasis on trade schools while dismissing the value of community colleges.
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Trump, speaking at the White House-sponsored "Generation Next" forum, shared an anecdote about a former classmate who, while not a particularly successful student, was mechanically quite adept.
“He had a great ability at that — far greater than me or far greater than other people," the president recalled. "But he’ll never be a student, nor did he want that kind of learning, that kind of whatever you want to call it."
The Association for Career & Technical Education responded to a similar anecdote Trump shared earlier at a Republican retreat.
"CTE (career and technical education) programs, like today's high-demand career fields, require strong academic skills. Students of all abilities and from all backgrounds benefit from high-quality CTE," the organization said in a statement. "In fact, CTE students have lower dropout and higher on-time graduation rates, and many transition to postsecondary education."
Trump laid the foundation of his premise in February, when he told Republican lawmakers that the less academically inclined should learn bricklaying or carpentry or other trades.
Trump also called for more investment in workforce development and job training during his State of the Union address in January, which brought about both enthusiasm and concern from educational organizations.
"We call upon Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in this session to recognize the impact that this law has on the developing and expanding workforce, which increasingly requires trained workers to fill the job demand of the 21st century," Career Education Colleges and Universities President and CEO Steve Gunderson said in a statement released after the State of the Union address expressing the organization's excitement toward the president's remarks.
However, others raised eyebrows over Trump's continued disregard for community colleges and invited the president for an opportunity to speak with the organizations to clarify what the institution provides.
“So we need vocational schools," Trump said Thursday. "Now, they call them, a lot of times, community colleges. I don’t think it’s an accurate definition.”
Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the chancellor of California Community Colleges, the largest system of higher education in the nation with 2.1 million students attending 114 colleges, said in an interview with ABC News that there is an important distinction between the terms "community colleges" and "vocational colleges."
“I would welcome an opportunity to speak with the president about the wealth and breadth of programs and services our 1,200 community colleges provide annually to millions of individuals," J. Noah Brown, the president and CEO of the Association of Community College Trustees, said in a statement.
Trump also touted his recent tax cut as a “tremendous advantage” to millennials.
“You have far more incentive," the president said. "You’re going to have a lot more money left in your paycheck to spend. And that’s part of the beauty."
Trump told panel host Charlie Kirk, the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit organization with presence in college campuses across the country, that the perception of opposition to his administration is “highly overblown.”
“I think we have a lot of support," Trump said. "You go to the real campuses and you go all over the country or you go out to the Middle-West, you go out even to the coast in many cases, we have a tremendous support. I would say we have majority support."