Students at Wake Tech Community College Talk Reform and Jobs

As a 16 year veteran educator, I am always keen to what students feel and how to address their concerns.

At a roundtable discussion with students at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, N.C. after Secretary Duncan’s town hall meeting last week, the students were open and honest about educational reform and the need for jobs in this country.

Their voices were clear: institutions that provide high-quality education, ongoing use and creation of technology to fuel educational practices, training programs for non degree-seeking displaced workers, are important priorities to ensure a strong American economy.

Johnny, a 25-year veteran of the Hospitality industry is a displaced worker who found himself at Wake Tech because he was laid off and has found it difficult to find another job. There was no laughter in the room when he stated that “age” discrimination is real and that he has faced it while trying to become re-employed. He was adamant when he said a bipartisan coming together to create jobs must occur now to ensure America’s stronghold as a world leader, especially in terms of the economy.

Fiaunna, a mom of a high school senior, is unwavering in her opinion that we must reform how we teach young people and the uses of technology in the classroom. After receiving a bachelor’s degree years ago, she noted that her two years at Wake Tech has been a stronger learning experience than her time as an undergraduate at another institution. After her previous job as a veterinarian’s assistant was eliminated, she took it upon herself to return to school. She is learning the hands-on skills that she needs to be highly successful as the owner of her own veterinarian facility one day. She notes that traditional colleges and universities must implement courses that will make graduates more career ready. Internships, hands-on experience in fields of study, and real-world experiences are just as important as traditional study.

Keyona is a young woman who was accepted into several universities but her family could not afford the tuition. She decided to attend Wake Tech. Her experience has strengthened her control of herself as a student and she feels a sense of comfort and belonging because of the innovative practices that have been implemented at the institution. With sincerity, she says that the financial challenges of furthering her education are real, and that she and other students would like some relief in terms of ways to pay for their education.

Jeannie, a nursing student, was a stay at home mom who has returned to school and strongly believes that giving students the support they need to be successful is a hallmark of a great institution of learning. Wake Tech’s open and clear communication and varying class times were instrumental in her choice to attend. She notes that schools should be aware that easy access to information through websites and simple instructions for registration and other processes draw students in.

The voices of these students and the others in this discussion were powerful.
Students want their voices heard. They plea for high-quality educational services, but more than anything, they want to be assured that they will have jobs to match their skills upon completion of their degrees.

Angela McClary-Rush is a teacher at Williamsburg County School District in South Carolina, and a 2011-2012 Teaching Ambassador Classroom Fellow

Community Colleges Critical to Winning the Future

Five time Jeopardy winner, rocket scientist, and Congressman, Rush Holt (D-NJ), teamed up with U.S. Department of Education Undersecretary Martha Kanter last Wednesday to highlight the important role community colleges play in meeting President Obama’s goal for the U.S. to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Wednesday’s community forum hosted by Mercer County Community College (MCCC) in Trenton, NJ brought students, administrators, and other stakeholders together to discuss student success in community college programs.  Both Kanter and Holt emphasized the need to increase postsecondary access and accelerate college completion to build stronger bridges from high schools, adult education, community colleges, four-year universities, and the workforce.

In her opening remarks Undersecretary Kanter, who is a former community college president, underscored their importance.  “Our ability to win the future will depend on the nation’s community colleges, the institutions that incubate nearly half of our country’s undergraduates,” Kanter said.  “This is the new generation that will move our nation forward.”

Congressman Rush Holt and ED Undersecretary Martha Kanter

Congressman Holt told Mercer County students and faculty that “as a former educator, I see a vital need for federal investment in education. If America is going to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world, we need to have a smart, well-trained workforce.”

They heard from students like Pam Prather who described her struggles as a youth and how community college gave her another opportunity to reach her potential, while several other students expressed appreciation that the Obama administration had increased the maximum Pell Grant awards to $5,550.

Click here to read more posts on how ED and the Obama administration continue to support community colleges in their efforts to help today’s students graduate career-ready.

Will Ragland
Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs

ED Hosts Community College Virtual Symposium

“As we try to educate our way to a better economy, community colleges are absolutely going to help lead us where we need to go,” said Secretary Duncan earlier this week at the first-ever Community College Virtual Symposium.

The symposium, streamed live over the Internet from Montgomery Community College in Silver Spring, Md., brought together ED staff and other education experts for a discussion about recent research findings related to student success in community college programs.

On four separate panels, scholars spoke about policies and practices that support bridge programs for low-skill adults, alignment of secondary and postsecondary education, improved developmental education, and college-employer partnerships that promote curricular change.

On hand to help kick off the conversation were Secretary Duncan, Undersecretary Martha Kanter, Dr. Jill Biden, Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Montgomery College President, Dr. DeRionne Pollard.

In his opening remarks, Secretary Duncan talked about the critical role community colleges play in providing pathways of opportunity for millions of Americans.  “Community colleges have been the unrecognized, unpolished gems on the education continuum,” Duncan said.  “Our country can’t be great and can’t be strong without community colleges leading us there.”

The symposium capped off a series of events that began with last year’s White House Community College Summit hosted by President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.  Since then, ED has hosted four regional community college summits in Philadelphia, Houston, Indianapolis, and San Diego to help extend the conversation across the country.

Click here to learn more about ED’s regional community college summits and this week’s virtual symposium.

Final Community College Regional Summit Focuses on Veterans, Military Members and Families

Tomorrow, April 15, ED will hold its fourth and final Community College Regional Summit at San Diego City College in San Diego, Calif. The focus of this one-day event is on Exemplary Programs for Veterans, Military Members, and Families, and will bring together federal, labor, industry and philanthropic partners to discuss how each entity can support local community college efforts to meet the President’s goal of having the best-educated workforce and the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Other topics to be discussed at the summit include solutions and promising practices in college completion, developmental education, industry-education partnerships, services to military service-members and veterans, transitioning adults to community colleges, and successful transfer programs to four year colleges and universities. The Summit will also provide a forum to identify local, state and national recommendations for increasing community college completion in order to meet the President’s 2020 goal.

Join us at 12:00 PM EDT on April 15, 2011 for a LIVE webcast of the summit (link will become active when the summit begins).

Community Colleges + Businesses = Jobs


Teri McClure of UPS talks about successful community college and business partnerships. (Photo courtesy of Ivy Tech Community College)

President Obama frequently talks about the importance of educating our way to a better economy, and partnerships between community colleges and businesses are vital to getting there. That was the key message of the U.S. Department of Education’s Community College Summit at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis on Wednesday, March 23.

“These summits are an opportunity for us to ‘listen and learn’ from all of you.  These discussions will help us to make future decisions about higher ed,” said Under Secretary Martha Kanter to a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 200 educators, business executives, policymakers, philanthropists and students.

Kanter discussed President Obama’s goal of increasing the number of American college graduates from 40 percent of working adults today, to 60 percent by 2020. That goal will better prepare students for the 21st century job market, and help the U.S. regain its position as first in the world in educating its students. She said that meeting this goal will require the U.S. to turn out at least 8 million additional graduates, and at least 5 million will come from community colleges.

It’s critical we think not only about the students coming up from high school, but the two-thirds of adults who need to come back  or go to college for the first time to move into a new career.

The meeting was the third of four regional summits convened to follow on the success of the White House Summit on Community Colleges held last October, where the President launched “Skills for America’s Future,”  an initiative to improve industry partnerships with community colleges. The summits were developed to identify promising practices for improving community colleges, with the first gathering in Philadelphia focusing on adult learners and an earlier meeting in Houston highlighting transitions to 4-year institutions.  Collaboration between community colleges and the private sector was the special focus of this meeting.

The decision to have this summit in the Midwest and specifically at Ivy Tech was no accident.

“We selected the Midwest specifically because so many of the community colleges here have really stepped up to the plate,” said Kanter, noting Midwestern colleges’ “responsiveness to the 21st century needs of employers” in developing tailored programs for retraining displaced workers.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is thanked by Under Secretary Martha Kanter following his remarks at ED’s Community College Summit. (Photo courtesy of Ivy Tech Community College)

As one of the largest community college systems in the U.S. with nearly 200,000 students at 23 campuses throughout Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College has formed more than 1,200 distinct partnerships with businesses. One of those collaborations is with the Northern Indiana Public Service Company. “We were going through a period where we could not get very many applicants to pass our pre-entry aptitude tests,” said Kris Emaus, manager of training for NIPSCO, during a lunchtime panel discussion.

NIPSCO joined forces with other state utility companies facing similar challenges to form the Indiana Energy Consortium. The consortium reached out to Ivy Tech, which has established a customized curriculum to provide students with the skills they need to fill an array of positions with salaries ranging from $25,000 to $105,000.  So far, about 100 students have enrolled in the program, she said.

ED’s dialogue with community college stakeholders will continue at a San Diego summit on April 15, with a special focus on programs for military members, veterans and their families. A virtual summit is also planned for April 27. To submit your name for consideration as a summit participant in San Diego please send your name, organization, title and e-mail address to: regional.summit@ed.gov

Julie Ewart is senior public affairs specialist for the Department of Education’s Region V office (including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin), and proud mom of three public school students.

NCAA Graduation Rates

“The math on this is not complicated,” Secretary Duncan told USA Today. “If you can’t graduate one in two of your student-athletes, I just question the institutional commitment to academics. And I think if the NCAA were to draw a line in the sand, you’d see this behavior change very rapidly.”

Secretary Duncan also penned an op-ed in today’s Washington Post shedding light on the fact that 10 of the 68 men’s teams in the NCAA tournament are not on track to graduate even half of their players:

“Colleges and universities need to stop trotting out tired excuses for basketball teams with poor academic records and indefensible disparities in the graduation rates of white and black players. And it is time that the NCAA revenue distribution plan stopped handsomely rewarding success on the court with multimillion-dollar payouts to schools that fail to meet minimum academic standards.

“Like millions of fans, I’ll be watching the tournament, rooting for my favorites. As a kid on the South Side of Chicago who loved basketball, I got to see the best and the worst of college sports. I spent time on the court with inner-city players who had been used and dumped by their universities. When the ball stopped bouncing, they struggled to find work and had difficult lives. Some died early. The dividing line for success was between those who went to college and got their degrees, and those who did not. If a team fails to graduate even half of its players, how serious are the institution and coach about preparing their student-athletes for life?”

Secretary Duncan joined Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, and Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, University of Central Florida on a press call to discuss NCAA graduation rates. Read the transcript, or listen to the call Audio icon.

Community College Regional Summit in Houston

ED will host the second in a series of four Community College Regional Summits on March 9, 2011, at Lone Star College-University Park in Houston, Texas.

The Regional Community College Summit will:

  • Bring federal, labor and industry, and philanthropic partners to your region to discuss how each entity can support local community college efforts to meet the  President’s 2020  goal for the U.S. to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world;
  • Provide a forum to share institution-level barriers, solutions and promising practices in college completion; developmental education; industry-education partnerships; services to military service-members and veterans; transitioning adults to community colleges; and successful transfer programs to four year colleges and universities; and
  • Provide a forum to identify local, state and national recommendations for increasing community college completion to meet the 2020 goal.

The morning plenary session begins at 10:00 a.m. EST.  The afternoon closing session will begin at 4:15 p.m. EST.  Both sessions will be broadcast live at:  http://hosted.mediasite.com/mediasite/Catalog/catalogs/Lonestar.aspx

Secretary Duncan Kicks Off First of Four Community College Regional Summits

Earlier today at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), Secretary Duncan joined Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in kicking off the first of four Community College Regional Summits aimed at boosting college completion.

The regional summit follows the White House’s successful Summit on Community College in October, and brought together 150 participants from surrounding states – representatives from community colleges, business and industry, philanthropy, labor, state and local government, and students – to explore and take to scale strategies that work in helping students succeed.

“I hope [community colleges] feel that this is their time in the sun,” said Secretary Duncan at this morning’s event. “Community colleges are an unrecognized gem along the college-career continuum.”

To coincide with the Regional Summit kick off at CCP, Dr. Jill Biden submitted an op-ed in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer reminding us of the importance of community colleges in helping students achieve the American dream:

“I have been a teacher for more than 30 years and a community college instructor for the last 18 of them. Every day in my classroom, I see the power of community colleges to change lives and put students on the path to opportunity and success.

“Community colleges are uniquely American institutions, in which anyone who walks through the door is one step closer to realizing the American dream. And they will play a vital role in the nation’s economic recovery.”

While today’s summit will focus on transitioning adult learners to community colleges and the workforce, the remaining three summits will each have a different focus and will be held at a community college in a different part of the country:

  • March 9 – Lone Star College System, Houston: “Successful Transfer Programs”
  • March 23 -Ivy Tech Community College, Indianapolis: “Partnerships Between Community Colleges and Employers”
  • April 15 – San Diego Community College District, San Diego: “Exemplary Programs for Veterans, Military Members, and Families”

Click here for more information on the Department of Education’s Community College Regional Summits.

Community College Summit in Philadelphia

ED is holding a regional community college summit in Philadelphia on February 28.

Secretary Duncan and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will participate in the summit, which is the first of four regional meetings being held as follow-up events to the White House Summit on Community Colleges in October 2010.

The Philadelphia summit — “Challenges, Solutions, and Commitments” — will bring together 150 participants from 15 surrounding states, representing community colleges, business, industry, philanthropy, labor, state and local governments, as well as students. The summit focus is “Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges and the Workforce.”

The morning session will be streamed live (from 9:00 am – 12:15 pm ET).

The remaining three regional meetings will be held around the country during the spring. The purpose of the meetings is to identify promising practices for increasing completion at community colleges.

Duncan has described community colleges as the linchpin for meeting the President’s national goal of once again leading the world in college completion by 2020.

While they’re in Philadelphia, Duncan and Solis will tour the 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund’s Learning Center, a joint labor-management partnership that provides job skills training in the health fields to over 2,000 adult students every year.

ED Staff

Community Colleges: The Gateway to Success

Note: This post is adapted from Secretary Duncan’s remarks at the summit.

Yesterday’s summit was a moment to both celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of community colleges and to take stock of and action on the challenges that lie ahead. For too long, community colleges were underappreciated, underfunded, and misunderstood. Working with modest resources, community colleges now educate almost half of all college students. About half of all first-generation college students and minority students attend community colleges. It is a remarkable record. No other system of higher education in the world does so much to provide access and second-chance opportunities as our community colleges.

 Community colleges have never been more important. They are educating the workforce of the future—the radiologic technicians; the registered nurses; the installation experts on solar and wind power; the IT and cyber-security technicians; the displaced workers in need of retraining and new careers; and scientists and other professionals.

President Obama set a goal that the United States will once again having the highest college attainment rate in the world by 2020. If we are to meet that goal, community colleges must lead the way. The math is stark. According to our projections, five million of the eight million additional college graduates needed to meet the 2020 goal will be community college graduates. All of higher education must contribute to reaching this goal. But community colleges will be the linchpin.

The Obama administration has committed unprecedented federal support for community colleges, but the financial pinch on community colleges is brutal—and it is unlikely to fade anytime soon. At the same time, full-time enrollment at community colleges increased nearly 25 percent in the two-year period from 2007 to 2009. Most revenue for community colleges comes from the states—and state revenue shortfalls stemming from the recession are making it tougher and tougher for community colleges to fulfill their promise of open door enrollment policies.

Yesterday’s summit was a beginning point, not an end point. We challenged those at the summit to replicate and take to scale the outstanding examples of community colleges. We have never before had more examples of success of community colleges boosting transfer and graduation rates with a certificate or degree; of schools building partnerships with industry that lead to real jobs; and of effective remedial instruction and online learning. But our students and our nation need success to be the norm, not a sometimes-thing.

In the years ahead, the overarching aim for community colleges must be dramatically boosting college completion and success.  This is not about tinkering; it’s about transformation. This is not just about getting more students to enroll; it’s about getting more students to graduation day. To meet the President’s 2020 goal, we project that all institutions of higher education will need to increase their college attainment rates by 50 percent over the next decade.

At present, only one in four community college students earns a degree or certificate, or successfully transfers to universities for their baccalaureate degrees. That has to change if our nation, our communities, and our students are to thrive and remain competitive in the knowledge economy.

For the sake of our students and our nation, let us work together to strengthen community colleges. Let us build the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world, and let us nurture the citizens of tomorrow.

Building Skills for America’s Future

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

Today, President Obama announced the launch of a new initiative Skills for America’s Future – an effort to improve industry partnerships with community colleges to ensure that America’s community college students are gaining the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the workforce.

In his remarks before the start of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) meeting today, President Obama laid the vision for Skills for America’s Future program:

The idea here is simple:  we want to make it easier to connect students looking for jobs with businesses looking to hire.  We want to help community colleges and employers create programs that match curricula in the classroom with the needs of the boardroom. 

We’ve already seen cases where this can work.  Cisco, for example, has been working directly with community colleges to prepare students and workers for jobs ranging from work in broadband to health IT.  And all over the country, we know that the most successful community colleges are those that partner with the private sector.  So Skills for America’s Future would help build on these success stories by connecting more employers, schools, and other job training providers, and helping them share knowledge about what practices work best.  The goal is to ensure that every state in the country has at least one strong partnership between a growing industry and a community college.  Already, companies from UTC to Accenture to the GAP have announced their support for this initiative, as well as business leaders like my friend Penny Pritzker and the Aspen Institute’s Walter Isaacson.   I hope other business leaders will follow suit, and I’m also setting up a taskforce to work directly with the business community on this effort.

The President also emphasized the importance investing in education as a means of investing in our long-term economic growth.

But what I won’t do is cut back on investments like education that are directly related to our long term economic performance.  Now is not the time to sacrifice our competitive edge in the global economy.  And that’s why I disagree so strongly with the proposal from some on the other side of the aisle to cut education by 20% in next year’s budget.  It’s a cut that would eliminate 200,000 children from Head Start programs; a cut that would reduce financial aid for eight million college students; a cut that would leave community colleges without the resources they need to meet the goals we’ve talked about today.  That just doesn’t make sense to me.

President Obama understands that the education and skills of the American workforce is crucial to our ability to compete in the global economy. That’s why the President has set a goal of having an additional 5 million community college degrees and certificates by 2020, and called on PERAB to develop new steps to ensure that those degrees and certificates will provide graduates with the skills they need to get ahead in their careers.

To respond to the President’s call, PERAB reached out to private sector employers, labor leaders, philanthropy organizations, and policy leaders within the Administration solicit their views on the workplace development challenges of the 21st century.  Many employers identified public-private partnerships as one of the most effective ways to ensure that college graduates and certificate earners have the skills they need to be successful in the workforce. 

The Skills for America’s Future initiative will match up the employers like PG&E, United Technologies, McDonald’s, Accenture and Gap Inc. with community colleges in every state to develop curricula and programs that will prepare graduates to excel in the workforce.  To learn more about this initiative visit www.SkillsForAmerica.org.

Tomorrow, Dr. Jill Biden will host the first ever White House Summit on Community Colleges, an effort to bring together bring together community colleges, business, philanthropy, federal and state policy leaders, faculty and students to discuss how community colleges can help meet the job training and education needs of the nation’s evolving workforce.  Leaders from the Skills for America’s Future will be leading a breakout session during the summit to discuss best practices for building robust, successful partnerships. 

You can join the conversation as well, by submitting your ideas and comments in our online dialogue on community colleges.  Visit WhiteHouse.gov/CommunityCollege to get started.

Make Higher Education Available to 100% of Americans

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

This week’s upcoming first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges is all about the lives and future of America’s students. During my years as a community college president and chancellor, I always asked my professional colleagues the same simple question whenever we faced a difficult challenge or issue:  what is the best way to help students succeed?

That’s the key question that will be on the table on Tuesday when President Obama, Second Lady Jill Biden, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis convene this historic gathering of community college students, faculty, presidents, business leaders, unions, philanthropists, members of Congress and other important stakeholders to honor community colleges and help support their mission. This Summit is evidence that the President  and the Administration understand the crucial role community colleges must play to achieve the goal he set for our nation: that by 2020 “the United States will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” Community colleges are the gateway to access and opportunity for America’s students, for building strong local communities, for keeping our nation in the forefront of the global marketplace, and for opening the doors for all to succeed in the workplace and in life, especially those from underserved and low-income populations.

For decades, I have been privileged to lead and support community colleges to transform the lives of our students.  As you can see, I believe deeply in the purpose and power of community colleges to change the lives of Americans for the better. Our social and economic prosperity as a nation depends on leaders at all levels who are educated. Our nation needs highly trained plumbers and radiologic technicians just as our nation needs highly educated climate scientists, artists and physicians. To prepare students with the skills, knowledge and critical thinking skills for success, community colleges must partner with four-year universities, business, government and others to make the full range of educational opportunities available to everyone seeking a college education.

President Obama and Secretary Duncan have expressed an unwavering commitment to make higher education available to the top 100% of Americans. Community colleges educate nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates, but not enough community college students are earning degrees and certificates. Not enough minority students are graduating. And not enough students from the poorest communities in America are succeeding in higher education. We need to change these facts.

When President Obama signed the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act which enabled us to implement Direct Lending, that single action of Congress has already resulted in thousands more Americans entering higher education because of the availability of Pell grants. These federal grants have enabled students from low-income families to go to college, students whose families believed a college education would not have been possible.

So we’re at a crossroads. We’ve made progress to increase access to college, though not nearly enough, but we have put our intellectual capital and energies together to change the fact that today only 25% of community college students earn degrees or certificates, or successfully transfer to our universities for their baccalaureate degrees.

We have to challenge the status quo and change these facts as quickly as we can, without compromising quality. The challenge ahead of us is to increase college access, quality and completion so millions more Americans are able to fully participate in the civic life of our country and contribute to an economy that stimulates a democratic society second to none.

I am delighted to be part of the broad cross section of committed citizens coming together for this historic summit — community college campus leaders represented by faculty, staff, administrators and students, as well as members of the business community, foundations, unions, researchers, policy makers, and others who will bring diverse perspectives and innovative ideas to inform and inspire us to increase college access and affordability AND realize higher levels of education attainment.

With more than 1100 community colleges around the country, we knew that many more people than could fit in one room would be eager to participate — and we were eager for their views and voices to be heard!  Anyone who wants to participate can go to www.WhiteHouse.gov/communitycollege to post a comment, send in a video, or ask a question.  We’ve also created a special online White House forum for others to participate during the summit, and will be live-streaming the opening and closing sessions. 

I’m especially thrilled to know that many community colleges are interested in hosting their own summits on October 5th – including local stakeholders in the conversation is the best way to keep the focus on the education and workforce training issues relevant to your own communities.

In almost every speech I give, I call for more collaboration to achieve our shared goals.  If all of us work together to overcome these challenges, more students will succeed. The White House Summit on Community Colleges is a fantastic step to move our nation toward that goal!

Martha Kanter
Under Secretary of Education