Community College Educators Say American Jobs Act Will Fill Gaps

At a recent roundtable, the faculty of Wake tech Community College believed in their students.

“My students have to go out in the community and demonstrate what they can do. I know they’ve learned when I see a reduction in fire loss,” Wayne, a Wake Tech Fire Service Director, told ED Teaching Ambassador Fellows Angela McClary-Rush and Maryann Woods-Murphy, who led the session with Frank Chong, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges.

Wayne’s colleague, Tommy Edwards, from the school’s Law Enforcement Division agreed. “We also see the results in how much cardio training we provide. Our students saved 20 lives.”

The ED team led the one–hour round table event in an outreach effort designed to listen to the challenges and needs of teachers. The discussion immediately preceded the Secretary Duncan’s Town Hall at the community college in Raleigh, N.C.

David Yarley, the Director of Wake Tech’s Bio Network Capstone Center, said that he is happiest when he picks up the phone and one of his students announces he or she has found a job. Steven Hill, the Humanities Department Chair, just wants to “turn the proverbial light bulb on.” Diane Hinson, a Health Science Dean, is thrilled that Wake Tech students score more than ten points higher than the state test pass rates.

These educators do everything they can to get their students engaged in learning and “use muscles they never knew they had,” said Jessica Facciolini, North Carolina’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, who joined the group from ED at the round table and later at Secretary Duncan’s Community College Town Hall.

But even though these faculty members feel that the Wake Tech is the “pulse of the community” and that “college for the real world” has a vital role, they were asking Washington to support to help maintain such successful programs.

Faculty spoke of large class sizes and of facilities with limited equipment for the students to practice their skills. “If you have two beds in a room full of students, they are only going to get limited hands-on training,” said a nursing teacher. “If we’re going to teach students the latest technology for the 21st Century, we can’t use old machines. They’ve got to have what’s out there in the work place.”

Dianne Hison sighed as she moved forward in her seat, “Not one thing we have on our plates is unreasonable, but when you put it all together, it’s impossible.”  Her colleagues shook their heads in agreement.

The faculty were grateful to know that the American Jobs Act, if passed, would provide relief to schools that have facilities needs and would create jobs for educators, including $5 billion specifically set aside for community colleges.

“Ask Washington to keep listening to us,” said one faculty member, “we’re doing magnificent things that help our students. We need support.”

Read more about the American Jobs Act

Maryann Woods-Murphy

Maryann is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from Allendale, NJ.

Helping Community College Students Get Back on Their Feet

What do an out-of-work mother, a high school dropout, a woman in the middle of a career switch, a professional musician, and an African immigrant have in common? They are all are trying to carve out a successful future by going back to school by attending or aspiring to attend St. Louis Community College (STLCC). After speaking at the National Council for Continuing Education and Training/National Council for Workforce Education’s Joint Annual Conference last Tuesday, I stopped by STLCC to tour the college’s Nursing Simulator Lab and to hold a community roundtable with students, college officials, and local employers.

Dann-Messier and STLCC Students

Brenda Dann-Messier (in green) with STLCC students.

STLCC and consortia partners throughout the state of Missouri recently received a $20 million grant under the  Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program. The program supports partnerships between community colleges and employers to develop programs that provide pathways to good jobs, including building instructional programs that meet specific industry needs.

Officials at STLCC are using the grant to expand partnerships with area hospitals that provide clinical training and future employment for students in the school’s nursing program.

The Nursing Program at STLCC has done an outstanding job of developing effective partnerships between students, educators, and employers.  Their collaboration model is critical to getting people back to work during these tough economic times. While some of the students were in the school’s nursing program, some were still trying to get their GED so they could begin their postsecondary education. For many of the students, getting to where they are today wasn’t easy, but they’ve persevered in the pursuit of their dreams.

One woman, for instance, lost her family mortgage business and was forced to sell her home while another student aspired to one day get her PhD after dropping out of high school several years ago. They had the common goal of completing the education necessary to achieve their newfound path in life. None of them could afford to attend a more expensive state school and were thankful for the many opportunities provided by STLCC.

“I couldn’t have gone back to school if it weren’t for STLCC,” said one student. “They have been instrumental in helping me get back on my feet.”

Brenda Dann-Messier is the Assistant Secretary in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

Arne on the Income-Based Repayment Program and Community Colleges

Arne took time last week to answer a couple of questions he received on his Facebook page. Daniel had a question on the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program and the President’s recent pay-as-you-earn proposal. Secretary Duncan encouraged Daniel and others with student loans to look at switching to the current IBR program. “Depending on your income, you could save literally hundreds of dollars every single month,” he said.
You can get an estimate of how much you could save by visiting our IBR page, and check out our IBR calculator that will give you an idea if IBR will lower your monthly payments.

Arne also responded to Lesley who left a great comment about her success as a community college student. Lesley, who now has her doctorate, talked about the power of education and how it can change lives.

“Community colleges, I continue to believe, have this ability to transform young people’s lives, adults’ lives, [and] older people’s lives in very profound ways,” Duncan said. He also highlighted the Obama Administration’s unprecedented commitment to community colleges, including the proposed American Jobs Act that would provide $5 billion for renovation and upgrades to community colleges across the country.

Watch the video:

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

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:

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:

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