Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 ACCT Congress: Incoming ACCT Chair Identifies the Skills Gap, Living Wage as Key Priorities

As the 2012 ACCT Leadership Congress came to a close, ACCT's incoming chair stressed the importance of addressing the skills gap and ensuring that community colleges work with a broad array of partners to ensure their graduates find jobs that pay a living wage.

"We have a serious problem in America today, and that's the skills gap," said ACCT Chair Jean Torgeson, a trustee at North Iowa Area Community College. "There's only one institution that can fix this, and that's community colleges. We can't do it alone, and we have to stop pointing fingers and start building partnerships with business and industry, foundation, K-12 systems—anybody who will build partnerships with us. We need everybody."

Stressing that "a living wage is not the minimum wage," Torgeson pointed to the agendas of the most recent previous ACCT chairs—poverty, student success, global education, collaboration, and partnerships—and stressed how each connects to the goal of ensuring that community colleges help their students find meaningful careers capable of sustaining families.

"Our economic recovery depends on it," she said.

The final keynote speaker, astronaut Dr. Andrew Feustel, discussed how his experience at Oakland Community College in Michigan prepared him for advanced studies and a career that culminated in two missions aboard the Space Shuttle. "The foundation I had at OCC really allowed me to explore the options for my future, and I received a degree that easily transferred to four-year institutions and allowed me to get a Ph.D. and ultimately go to space," he said.

Closing the 2012 Congress, Torgeson urged trustees to focus on student success and partnerships when they return to their colleges. "The train is leaving the station," she said. "I expect every trustee to be active on their local boards. Ask the tough questions and get those partnerships formed—and get all those students jobs with a living wage."

Read more!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 ACCT Congress: A New Urgency to the Student Success Agenda

Opening the 43rd annual ACCT Leadership Congress, W.K. Kellogg Foundation President and CEO Sterling Speirn told attendees that they are "living in one of the most critical times our nation has ever faced."

The nation's future "depends largely on the investments we make on the institutions that support the human capital that is the bedrock of our society," Speirn said during Wednesday evening's opening session. "Student success in your colleges has a lot more to do than with just the individual success of your [students], but their role in our economy and democratic system going forward."

Over the next day, in sessions, keynotes, and a standing-room-only town hall meeting, Congress attendees grappled with a student success agenda imbued with a new sense of urgency. Reflecting on his recently published book, First in the World: Community Colleges and America's Future, ACCT President & CEO J. Noah Brown underscored the importance of the success agenda in restoring America's global competitiveness. "We face many challenges in the U.S., but none more important than educational attainment," Brown said. "Community colleges prove an on-ramp for the greatest diversity of individuals to the higher education superhighway. We are the most critical sector to restoring the economy and ensuring our people achieve the American dream."

During Thursday's general session luncheon, speakers pointed to the growing connections between industry, K-12, and higher-education systems. Bill Green, executive chairman of Accenture, touted community colleges as the lynchpin of talent acquisition for employers, calling the community college model "the shortest time from aspiration to a job."

Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, discussed the more stringent Common Core standards being implemented at the K-12 level and made the case that community colleges and school districts should work together to address the ongoing challenge of students who leave high school unprepared for college or careers. "There's no reason for us to graduate a student who then goes into remediation," Wilhoit said, urging community colleges to engage in "deep conversations" with the clusters of K-12 districts that feed into their campuses. "Better for one of our students to stay in our system a bit longer than go into your system unprepared," Wilhoit added. "That should happen in K-12, but it cannot happen without your help."

"The good news," said Paul E. Lingenfelter, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, "is that we're starting to get it as a country. The level of K-12 and community college collaboration is higher now than it's ever been. We're working together to reform teacher education and develop the capabilities to meed this agenda… We're beginning to stop pointing fingers and trying to find a silver bullet, but coming together around this agenda and really working to achieve the kind of educational success that we achieved 50 years ago, when Sputnik frightened us and almost on a dime we changed the way we… set aspirations as a country. We're on the verge of doing it again."

In a Town Hall meeting Thursday evening, a group of experts argued passionately that community colleges can deliver on what society needs most from them. Community colleges "make up part of the only system that has the opportunity to respond to the crisis," said Elizabeth Mason, CEO and co-founder of Single Stop USA, which has helped more than 50,000 community college students receive wraparound services over the last two and a half years. "The resources are there, the colleges are there, the demand is there and the leadership is there. We need to have the will to move forward." Douglas Wood, program officer for the Ford Foundation, agreed, adding that the foundation is focusing on community colleges as the "anchor institutions" to provide meaningful links between higher ed, K-12 systems and economic development organizations in "corridors of college success."

As a roadmap, AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus pointed to recommendations from the Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation's Future report, created by the AACC's 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges. Byron McClenney, director of student success initiatives at the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, emphasized the importance of trustees in shifting cultural mindsets. "Culture eats strategy for breakfast," he cautioned. "It starts with the board doing things differently and saying we're going to elevate the student success agenda and have the back of the CEO as he does the tough, courageous work."

ACCT Chair-Elect Jean Torgeson, a trustee at North Iowa Area Community College, told trustees that it is too late to make minor changes, adding that transforming colleges will require the participation of all stakeholders. "What's it going to take?" she asked. "Every single one of us."
Read more!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 Symposium on Completion: Bringing a 'Culture of Evidence' to Bear on Student Success

A focus on data has become essential to community college efforts around the student success agenda, stressed speakers at ACCT's third annual symposium on college completion. "Analytics and data are critical to you and your students being able to see inside the black box that is higher education," said Dr. Diana G. Oblinger, president and CEO of Educause. "We need to learn how to use data as a flashlight, not a hammer."

Held with support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, the two-day symposium brought together community college leaders and thought partners from more than 20 organizations at a time in which the recession has dramatically accelerated the critical needs around completion. A full two-thirds of new and replacement jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by 2018, said Dr. James Applegate, vice president of program development for Lumina Foundation. "Jobs for high school graduates are just dropping off the charts, while for [postsecondary degree and certificate holders], we've fully recovered," he said. "Don't let anyone tell you we don't need more people with postsecondary degrees."

Another shift caused by the recession is that the number of incoming students entering community colleges with the goal of attaining a degree has increased from 59 percent to 83 percent in just a few years, said Dr. Kay McClenney, director for the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. "It's gone up dramatically because your students know a postsecondary credential is not just a ticket to the middle class and economic mobility, but in fact, the only ticket," McClenney said. "There's no more powerful lever for change than data that paints a picture of our community college students and tells the truth about which groups are disproportionately falling through the cracks."

Stressing the importance of community college leaders establishing a "culture of evidence," McClenney and other speakers emphasized that the role of trustees is not to micromanage and sift through data, but to establish priorities around student success, identify appropriate metrics, and hold their CEOs accountable to them. "You are local leaders who can move this agenda," said Dr. Narcisa Polonio, ACCT executive vice president for education, research, and board leadership services. "What's important to you becomes important to the institution."

The Voluntary Framework of Accountability continues to emerge as a key tool to help colleges understand and communicate the data around student success. With a beta of the tool used to collect data from colleges to be tested early next year, the goal is to begin active data collection by late fall of 2013, said Dr. Karen Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania, which beta tested the framework. "I look at the VFA locally as a catalyst to building my understanding of the institution to focus on governance, and nationally as a catalyst for understanding our areas of opportunity for the future," she said.

A public policy agenda developed by community college leaders at last year's symposium and during a town hall meeting at the 42nd Annual ACCT Leadership Congress is now available on ACCT's website. Speakers urged member boards to use the agenda as a roadmap to developing policies that support student success and completion.

ACCT President & CEO J. Noah Brown put the importance of putting the data into context succinctly. "Every one of those numbers is a face, and every one of those faces is a human being," he told symposium attendees. "And every human being deserves the right to live in dignity. That's why you're here." Read more!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Administration Officials Stress Community College Commitment, Call for Veteran Support at 2012 National Legislative Summit

Two Obama Administration officials stressed the President's continuing commitment to the community college sector and urged its leaders to support returning veterans during the 2012 Community College National Legislative Summit.

Roberto J. Rodriguez, special assistant to the President for education on the White House Domestic Policy Counsel, called community colleges "the largest and most nimble sector of higher education." Reiterating the Obama Administration's goal of 5 million more community college graduates by 2020, Rodriguez described the new $8 billion Community College to Career Fund proposed in the President's FY 2013 budget as a "doubling down on the [President's] commitment" to support colleges in their efforts.

"Securing this investment would give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers to ensure that employers have the workforce they need and that workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials that build strong careers," he said.

Rodriguez also pointed to the $5 billion the administration has proposed for community college facility modernization, as well as past collaborative efforts such as the 2010 White House Summit on Community Colleges, which he said had spawned such programs as the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and Skills for America's Future.

"We need a new commitment to increase college success," he said. "We believe that community colleges can be the catalyst for that change."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told NLS attendees that veterans "have what it takes to succeed not just in the military, but in school and in whatever endeavor they choose." The retired Army general urged community college leaders to support the 950,000 veterans and family members currently enrolled in higher education programs, more than one-third of whom attend community colleges.

"I want to ask more of you," he said, urging community college leaders to provide meeting spaces and other services that would allow veterans to support each other as they adjust to their post-military lives. "Embrace our veteran students, and encourage them to organize themselves... Have them seize this collective responsibility of graduating each other."

Shinseki looked back to the post-World War II GI Bill, which "provided the leadership that catapulted our nation to the world's largest economy."

"Lightning is about to strike a second time," he said.

For a transcript of Shinseki's speech, click here.
Read more!

2012 National Legislative Summit Brings Together Cross-Section of Congress For Forum

The 2012 Community College National Legislative Summit brought together lawmakers from both houses and both sides of the aisle for its first-ever Congressional Forum. Held in the Capitol Visitor Center, the Wednesday morning forum featured frank talk on Pell Grants, workforce training programs, and the overall future of federal support in higher education.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stressed the importance of continuing federal support for the community college agenda, asserting that "nothing reduces the deficit more than investments in education."

"We are committed to reigniting the American dream and building ladders of responsibility," Pelosi said. "Community colleges are an important rung on that ladder.... Let's take this debate to a higher ground, of consideration of what our values are as a country and the role that education plays in them -- and the roles that community colleges play in that." Pelosi thanked ACCT Chair Roberto Uranga, ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown, and Community College League of California President and CEO Scott Lay, as well as the American Association of Community Colleges, for their hard work.

Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.) addressed the growth of the Pell Grant program, warning that Pell will not be sustainable in the long-run "without addressing the underlying systemic forces that undermine federal aid programs." Federal support to higher education, he added, "is not going to go away -- but it will be less and less effective if we don't make meaningful changes now."

Enzi also questioned the Obama's Administration's pledge to provide new funds to community colleges. "Every new program we add means an existing program is going to suffer," Enzi said, urging community college leaders to "protect your existing programs, and come up with ways to make them better and fairer."

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) stressed his commitment to programs that "maintain and preserve your important work," including Pell and Perkins grants, as well as his own bill, the Job Opportunities Between our Shores (JOBS) Act, which would support partnerships between community colleges and advanced manufacturing firms. "The President wants to double exports," Hoyer said. "We will not double exports unless we make things in America."

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) drew from her own experience as a community college president who faced budget cuts to urge NLS attendees to "find ways to do the things you must do without more money."

"We have a real economic crisis in our country, and I want to challenge you as leaders in the community college system," Foxx said. "It can be done."

Foxx also discussed the ongoing work around reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), arguing that there is a need to consolidate the 47 job training programs currently overseen by nine federal agencies. "These programs can provide a boost to communities hard hit by the economy -- we all agree on that," she said. "But we have redundancies, waste, overlap, and multiplication of services. These sow confusion and are a detriment to the people who need them."

While the lawmakers made few direct references to their colleagues on the other side of the aisle, they drew comparisons in their comments. "We're going to have debates here in Washington with those who think educating our citizens is too expensive," said Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) "I represent the side that says that ignorance will cost our country more. There's no chance a country of 300 million people can compete with countries of a billion people unless we educate everyone to their full potential.... Community colleges are the best dollar we can invest in our nation."

Pointing to the need for increased completion rates, expanded partnerships with local industries, and services for returning military veterans, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) called on community college leaders to "redouble your efforts as you continue to innovate and adapt to our changing economy."

"We have a lot to do," Murray said. "It's not going to be easy, but our country has taken on challenges before and always come out ahead. And I'm pretty confident that community colleges are going to lead the way."
Read more!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2012 National Legislative Summit Examines Election-Year Priorities

One day after President Barack Obama unveiled his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year at Northern Virginia Community College, trustees and presidents convened in Washington, D.C., for the 2012 Community College National Legislative Summit fully aware of the election-year challenges ahead of them.

"We know we have a presidential election in November, which increases the hyperpolitical nature of what's going on in D.C.," said ACCT Director of Public Policy Jee Hang Lee.

Obama's proposed budget and earlier initiatives include unprecedented funding for community colleges, including $5 billion for modernizing community college infrastructure and an $8 billion Community College to Career fund that builds on the existing $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant Program. With the odds of passage uncertain, NLS speakers urged community college leaders to not lose sight of programs already in place. For example, the CCCTG program has already survived several "minor but real" threats and is likely to face them again, cautioned Jim Hermes, AACC director of government relations.

Nowhere is preserving existing programs more critical than the $40 billion Pell Grant program, which serves 9.7 million students. Facing a $1.3 billion program shortfall, lawmakers recently made several significant eligibility changes, including the elimination of benefits for "ability to benefit" students who lack a high school diploma or GED, said ACCT Senior Public Policy Associate Jennifer Stiddard. "A lot of these changes disproportionately impact community colleges and working students," Stiddard said. "It's important that Pell be kept whole."

Looking ahead, the Pell Grant program will face an $8 billion shortfall in FY 2014, which is also the first year that it will be eligible for the across-the-board cuts required by the the Budget Control Act's sequestration provision.

Given the challenging budget climate, ACCT and AACC leaders urged community college leaders to continue stressing the impact of their institutions. "In budget parlance, there's a difference between consumption and investment," said David Baime, AACC senior vice president for government relations. "Education is an investment."

Earlier in the day, former U.S. Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah) urged NLS attendees to "tell the story of the enormously significant financial bargain that community colleges are."

"Community colleges are an undiscovered jewel in terms of the impact they can make in the lives of young people," he said.

Former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) was even more succinct in his advice: "You have a terrific approach, with autonomy on the local level and serving the public in need," he said. "Don't let the politicians mess things up."

The 2012 Community College National Legislative Summit continues today with opening speaker Roberto J. Rodriguez, special assistant to the President for education, White House Domestic Policy Council, a Congressional Forum with a roster of Congressional speakers, and the 2012 Capital Awards Banquet, at which U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) will be awarded the 2012 National Education Service Award for his dedication to community and technical colleges.

For the full program, click here.
Read more!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011 ACCT Congress: Incoming ACCT Chair Emphasizes Student Success, K-12 Collaboration

As the 2011 ACCT Congress drew to a close, incoming ACCT Chair Roberto Uranga stressed the importance of continuing to build on the commitment made to student success and working more closely with K-12 schools.

“Last year, we planted a seed,” said said Uranga, a trustee at Long Beach City College in California. “[This year’s] symposium and lively town hall meeting represented the sprouting root of that seed. I look forward to working with ACCT’s visionary board and talented staff to make that sprout grow and blossom as we keep moving forward with our goal of increased student success in 2012.”

The first Hispanic trustee to serve as ACCT Chair, Uranga cited the association's success in growing membership and expanding the state, province, and territory coordinators network over the past year. Uranga stressed the importance of community college boards working with K-12 school systems and their boards, saying his top priority as ACCT Chair will be to develop a toolkit to help foster and promote school board and college board collaboration.

“We need to do it together,” he said.

The final Congress keynote speaker, Philip “Uri” Treisman, urged trustees to seek ways to share information about what works on their campuses, particularly in the critical area of developmental education. “Good ideas from good people do not spread in our sector of higher education,” said Treisman, professor of mathematics and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. “One of our roles in governance is creating structures... for making that happen.”

Uranga closed the 2011 Congress on a note of change. “The changes taking place will continue to challenge our boards,” Uranga said. “But I know we’ll be rewarded in the short- and long-run. ACCT has never been positioned so well to make a difference.”

(See previous 2011 ACCT Leadership Congress coverage here). Read more!