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

One of Our Best Education Resources

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

I have been blessed with jobs that have taken me many places. From the California State Legislature and my time on Capital Hill, to my current post as your Secretary of Labor, public service has allowed me to see so much of what our nation has to offer. But what started it all, and what remains as one of the most important positions I have held, was when my friends urged me to run for my first elected office as a member of the Rio Hondo Community College board of trustees.

What I quickly learned at Rio Hondo, and still believe today, is that community colleges are an amazing and often undervalued choice in post-secondary education.  Community colleges are unmatched in their ability to reach students in diverse communities and meet the needs of many who might not think that higher education was “for them.”

Recently, we have seen an unprecedented demand placed on the community college system.  As their reputations grow, and education becomes increasingly expensive, more and more students are realizing the value of community colleges. Not only do recent high-school graduates look to community colleges for top-notch education, many skilled workers are returning to school to prepare for new careers.

In today’s competitive job market, ensuring that community colleges continue to excel and that they remain the institutions workers and employers can count on to provide career-focused education is more important than ever. These schools must have the resources needed to meet the demands of a new generation of students and workers seeking to upgrade their skills.

Little did I know when I joined the Rio Hondo board, that 25 years later I would have the opportunity to participate in this exciting national discourse.  Community colleges face many challenges, but they are one of our best resources when it comes to providing a good education – leading to good jobs – for everyone.

On October 5, Dr. Jill Biden will be hosting the first ever White House Summit on Community Colleges.  To learn more and find out how you can get involved go to WhiteHouse.gov/CommunityCollege.

Hilda Solis is the Secretary of Labor

Duncan Speaks at Community College Commencements

Duncan Speaks at Community College Commencements“Community colleges are central to building a vibrant economy and resilient work force,” Secretary Duncan said in commencement addresses at De Anza College and Foothill College.

He noted that these institutions serve many students who are working, immigrants, raising a family, or the first in their family to attend college.

“They are absolutely critical to meeting President Obama’s goal of America once again having the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020,” he said.

At De Anza College in Cupertino, CA, he told how education helped two immigrants pursue the American dream: Gary Locke and Sonia Sotomayor.

Duncan Speaks at Community College CommencementsIn remarks at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA, he talked about “the Protean Career” – the need to manage uncertainty, anticipate change, and adapt to it. “Your ability to adapt, to be creative, and pursue your passion are, in large measure, going to determine how you fare in the job market and in life,” he said.

He encouraged graduates to be “a person of influence for good in the world” and to…

“Find what you love, find your genius. Find what would you get up and do every day, even if you weren’t getting a paycheck. And whatever that calling is, pursue it with all your heart.”

Read the full text of his remarks at De Anza College and Foothill College.

More Photos

Path to Opportunity – Community Colleges Serving Adult Students

This week we posted short videos about three adult students who are pursuing education at community colleges to secure a good job and a good life:

Claudia Rodriguez, a veteran of the war in Iraq, attends Texas Southmost College in Brownsville. Balancing her responsibilities on the job with the National Guard and at home with her husband and two children, Claudia is completing an associate’s degree. She plans on a career in counseling.   Claudia Rodriguez, a veteran of the war in Iraq, attends Texas Southmost College in Brownsville.
 
Tia Marie Gwynn is a single mother of two who overcame a number of obstacles on her way to becoming a student at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland.   Tia Marie Gwynn is a single mother of two who overcame a number of obstacles on her way to becoming a student at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland. Currently enrolled in a certificate program in business office management, Tia says that she plans stay in school to complete her associate’s degree, or perhaps a bachelor’s or master’s.
 
Eric Patrick is a 40-year-old career changer who is finishing an associate’s degree at Michigan’s Macomb Community College. He left a job in the aerospace industry to study engineering as a full-time student. Eric will finish his associate’s degree soon, and he has already earned a scholarship to a four-year institution where he will continue his studies.   Eric Patrick is a 40-year-old career changer who is finishing an associate’s degree at Michigan’s Macomb Community College.

Their stories reveal the different challenges that adult students face, including the need to balance work schedules and family responsibilities.  The videos also tell about the kinds of support – financial and otherwise – that are available to help adult students to succeed.

The experiences of Claudia, Tia, and Eric show that a community college education is about more than getting a better job and a better salary.  It’s about acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to get along better in the world, to do more for one’s family, and to be a better citizen.  It’s about hope.

John McGrath
Office of Communications and Outreach

ED Global Engagement Update

“All of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century.”

One year ago today, President Obama delivered a speech in Cairo titled “A New Beginning.”  The President reminded us in his remarks that “change cannot happen overnight” and that while much anticipated, it was only a speech.  But here at the Department of Education, the President’s words catalyzed much change in the past year.

Secretary Duncan has led ED in active engagement with the Muslim world at home and abroad.  Senior ED officials have traveled to Morocco, Qatar, Pakistan, Egypt and Ethiopia this year.  Secretary Duncan blogged at for the White House about a video conference he held with students from Washington DC and Jordan and led a panel on youth entrepreneurship with colleagues from Pakistan, Indonesia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.  Secretary Duncan has met with Ministers of Education from around the world, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Last June, ED’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education joined the State Department and U.S. AID in hosting a conference on community and technical colleges in Amman, Jordan.  Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Pakistan, and Jordan are among the countries working with U.S. institutions to connect education and workforce development in high-tech, high-demand fields.  ED collaborated with State to launch a small grants program to support institutional partnerships between US community colleges and technical colleges in the BMENA region, which was announced by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton as part of a portfolio of programs designed to improve educational and economic opportunities in Muslim-majority nations.

The Cooperative Civic Education and Economic Education Exchange Program provides grants to improve the quality of civic and economic education through cooperative exchange programs with emerging democracies.  Currently, there are CCEEEEP-funded projects in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Uzbekistan.

ED has supported engagement with the Muslim world for many years and often decades through programs and exchanges.  ED’s National Resource Centers, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad, Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad, Centers for International Business Education, Foreign Language and Area Studies, Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, Americans Overseas Research Centers, Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program, Business and International Education and Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access are all opportunities for global engagement.  These grants can support projects that develop, maintain, or enhance linkages with overseas institutions of higher education or other educational organizations in areas with substantial Muslim populations in order to improve understanding of these societies and provide for greater engagement with institutions in these areas.  Or they send students, teachers and faculty overseas for language instruction, group research or study, and other purposes.  These grants support foreign language instruction in the US and business education abroad.  This year, these programs supported engagement with Muslim majority countries across the globe.

ED’s Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnership has reached out to Muslim communities in the U.S. in a variety of ways, including visits with Muslim students, parents and faith leaders from California to Illinois, Arkansas to Washington DC.

“We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning.”

Here at the Department of Education, we have tried to use the power that we have to make a new beginning for young people in the United States and across the world.  This is the President’s challenge, and we will continue to work toward the vision he expressed in Cairo.

Lauren Lowenstein
Office of the Secretary

Rural Community College Day

Rural community colleges are key to achieving President Obama’s goal for America to have the highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by 2020.

On Feb. 24, “Rural Community College Day,” officials from the U.S. Department of Education joined with the Rural Community College Alliance to discuss challenges and opportunities to increase college graduation and career training.

Administrators from community colleges and universities from across the country met with Under Secretary Martha Kanter, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges Frank Chong, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Career and Technical Education Glenn Cummings.

ED staff briefed participants on a range of topics, including:

Participants talked about challenges and opportunities facing rural community colleges and said that Pell Grants are the most important human capital development tool for rural communities.

Under President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, the maximum Pell Grant increases by $160 to $5,710 and would automatically rise by rate of inflation plus 1 percentage point annually over the next decade. It also includes the $10.6 billion American Graduation Initiative to improve and modernize community colleges, and a $3.5 billion College Access and Completion Fund.

The meeting came on the heels of last year’s Listening and Learning Tour, which took Secretary Duncan and ED officials to all 50 states, including rural community colleges and small rural public schools, to listen to students, families, educators, and rural community leaders.

John White
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach
Office of Communications and Outreach

American Graduation Initiative: Strengthening Community Colleges

Yesterday, the President announced a historic commitment to higher education and especially community colleges. Today, Chairman Miller is building on that proposal to do even more for children and young people with his introduction of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009. I just want to voice my support for that effort.

When we first proposed the shift to direct lending in March, we made the point that it is better to invest money for education rather than subsidizing banks. Clearly, the Chairman shares that view—as do many others.

The President, Chairman Miller, and I believe that $90 billion dollars can be better spent increasing college access and affordability by funding Pell grants, college completion grants, Perkins loans increases, community college challenge grants, infrastructure, and FAFSA simplification.

We need to pursue the President’s goal of producing more college graduates than any other country by 2020 while also being fiscally responsible. This week we’ve taken two important steps in that direction.

Arne Duncan

U.S. College Presidents and Researchers Attend Community and Technical College Symposium in Amman, Jordan

Deputy Assistant Secretary Glenn Cummings, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Minister of Education Dr. Walid Ma'ani, and U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Officer Alice Blayne Allard

Deputy Assistant Secretary Glenn Cummings, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Minister of Education Dr. Walid Ma'ani, and U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Officer Alice Blayne Allard

Last week Deputy Assistant Secretary Glenn Cummings led a delegation of U.S. community college presidents and researchers to Amman, Jordan, to participate in an international conference promoting community colleges.

They joined education representatives from the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) region to make presentations on business and education partnerships that promote workforce development, technological innovations that improve instruction and expand learning options, and other topics.

Cummings delivered remarks on President Obama’s education priorities and the importance of international education partnerships during the opening session on June 16.

Below are photos. For additional information on the June 16-17 conference, including the list of U.S. community college presents and researchers who participated, please see http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/06/06152009b.html, http://bmena.state.gov/, and http://jordan.usembassy.gov/pr_bmena_061609.html.

More photos

Secretary Duncan Visits Milwaukee, Announces Grant Competition to Retrain Displaced Workers

Yesterday Secretary Duncan visited the Milwaukee Area Technical College to announce a $7 million grant competition to establish innovative and sustainable community college programs that prepare displaced workers for second careers. The idea is to develop national models that can be replicated across the country, particularly in communities where autoworkers have lost their jobs.

See the press release and the Federal Register notice announcing the competition.

Visit to Milwaukee Area Technical College 1 Visit to Milwaukee Area Technical College 2 Visit to Milwaukee Area Technical College 3
Visit to Milwaukee Area Technical College 4 Visit to Milwaukee Area Technical College 5 Visit to Milwaukee Area Technical College 6