Cañada College in Redwood City has focused on becoming a regional center for science, technology, engineering and math.
"We're in the process of developing a program to train laboratory workers in chemistry and biotech," Science and Technology Department Dean Janet Stringer said.
That kind of innovation will win community colleges special grants awarded by the Obama administration. The president's plan will invest a total of $12 billion over the next 10 years.
"All too often community colleges are treated like the stepchild of the higher education system," Mr. Obama said.
There are nearly 19 million students enrolled in colleges across America. Of that, 36 percent attend two-year schools. With enrollment expected to increase, Mr. Obama says it is time to renovate and modernize our community colleges.
The president also wants to implement more remedial programs for students and make it easier for them to transfer to a four-year institution. Mr. Obama says the money will come from ending subsidies to banks and private lenders of student loans.
"A lot of people can't afford the four-year college and having somewhere like this where it is less money having a better campus or something like that would help a lot of people expand their horizons and get the jobs and things they deserve in life," student Amber Krekorian said.
"The more college educated people you have, the better trained your workforce is," Stringer said.
And the Obama administration argues a stronger economy will follow.