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

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

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 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 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

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