Thursday, December 17, 2009

House Passes Jobs Bill

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the “Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010” by a 217-212 vote. The act provides $154 billion for a number of programs. Most importantly, $23 billion will be available to states as part of an Education Jobs Fund over the next two years. 95% of the funds will be allocated by states to school districts and public institutions of higher education to retain or create jobs that provide educational services and to modernize, renovate, and repair public education facilities.

The bill provides $750 million in competitive grants to train workers for jobs in high-growth fields. The bill also provides $300 million for the College Work Study program. The summary of the bill can be found here.

The bill can be found here.

The Senate will not take up the Jobs bill legislation before their holiday recess. Additionally, it is unclear whether the Senate bill will be similar to the House’s bill.

ACCT continues to work on gathering co-sponsors for H.R. 4196, the Community College Emergency Stabilization Fund Act, sponsored by Reps. John Larson (D-CT) and Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX). Currently, the bill has 31 co-sponsors. Rep. Larson is still working to attach the bill as part of a larger legislative vehicle. Adding more co-sponsors will facilitate the process.

Meanwhile, Congress has passed its Omnibus Appropriations bill, which includes the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill. President Obama’s signed the bill into law yesterday. A summary can be viewed here. Read more!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

President Obama's Speech on Job Creation; Congress Finalizes Funding Bill

Yesterday, President Barack Obama gave a speech at the Brookings Institute outlining his goals for a prospective job creation bill. The speech outlined three key areas: 1) Helping small businesses expand investment, hire workers and access credit; 2) Investing in America’s roads, bridges and infrastructure; and 3) Creating jobs through energy efficiency and clean-energy investments.

The White House fact sheet on these goals can be found here:

President Obama’s speech can be viewed here:

Congress is beginning to work on a jobs package, but it is unclear whether Congress will be able to move a bill prior to adjourning for the holidays. House Democratic leaders have indicated that they have a strong desire to introduce a bill prior to adjournment. ACCT is working to gather co-sponsors for H.R. 4196, the Community College Emergency Stabilization Fund Act, sponsored by Reps. John Larson (D-CT) and Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX). The bill currently has 12 additional co-sponsors.

In other news, House and Senate Appropriations leaders announced that they had agreed to a nearly $450 billion omnibus appropriations bill that will include 5 appropriations bills, including $163.6 billion for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill. The bill provides for a $5,550 Pell Grant maximum. Additionally, other funding levels include: 1) $125 million for the Career Pathways Innovation Fund (formerly Community-Based Job Training Grant program); 2) $603 million for minority-serving institutions; and 3) $40 million for a green jobs program. A summary can be viewed at:

The passage of the omnibus appropriations bill will result in one remaining appropriations bill, for defense appropriations. Congress is working to pass these bills soon because the current continuing resolution, which is funding the federal government, expires on December 18th. Congress may use the defense appropriations bill as the vehicle to move any jobs bill. Read more!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reps. Larson and Hinojosa Introduce H.R. 4196, Community College Emergency Stabilization Fund Act

Last Friday, Reps. John Larson (D-CT) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced H.R. 4196, the Community College Emergency Stabilization Fund Act. The bill provides a one-time allocation of $700 million to states which in turn will provide grants to community colleges. H.R. 4196 provides critical funds to community colleges as they work to meet the wave of students entering community colleges. The bill’s sponsors are concerned about the perfect storm (higher enrollment and less funding) occurring on community college campuses. Therefore, bill provides critical funds to colleges to deal with staffing and faculty shortages to meet the rising enrollments. Colleges will be able to use funds to cover costs related to maintaining, or hiring additional faculty and staff, counselors or others. Additionally, the bill provides $50 million for a federal competitive grant program targeted to career and technical colleges.

Reps. Larson and Hinojosa are currently working to gather co-sponsors to their bill. The goal is to have the bill attached as part of any jobs package that Congress may move in the coming months. ACCT urges its members to reach out their Congressional members in support of H.R. 4196. The bill can be viewed at
Read more!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Senate Education Reconciliation Bill Still on Hold

This weekend, the Senate is expected to conduct a key procedural vote, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed for cloture to begin consideration of the Senate health care reform bill. If the Senate is able to get the 60 necessary votes, it will begin consideration of the Senate health care legislation. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Reid noted yesterday that the Senate will not use the reconciliation process for health care. It is unclear what other procedural alternatives would remain for health care if the Senate does not get cloture on the bill.

Congress is still on track to utilize the reconciliation process for education, but the Senate is still waiting for action to be determined on health care before it considers the education reconciliation bill. The Senate’s education reconciliation bill is expected to contain the American Graduation Initiative (AGI). ACCT is hopeful that the Senate will provide greater funding for the American Graduation Initiative than the House bill provided.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Ranking Member of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced legislation to extend the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act (ECASLA). ECASLA was passed in 2008 and helped stabilize the student loan market by allowing the Department of Education to purchase Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL). The Administration and the Education Committee Chairmen have signaled that they will not seek to extend ECASLA because the proposed conversion of the FFEL to the Direct Loan program will make the extension unnecessary. Read more!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Congress Passes Another Continuing Resolution

Yesterday, Congress passed H.R. 2996, the FY2010 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which also included a continuing resolution to keep the federal government programs running through December 18. The previous continuing resolution would have expired at the end of the month. The House vote was 247-178 and the Senate vote was 72-28. The President is expected to sign the bill soon.

Congress still needs to pass the seven remaining appropriations bills. Congress will likely move a large omnibus appropriations bill that will contain the remaining bills.
Read more!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ed Department Names Frank Chong as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges

The US Department of Education is confirming that they have appointed Dr. Frank Chong to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education. Dr. Chong is the President of Laney College within the Peralta Community College District, since July 2006.

Prior to coming to Laney, Dr. Chong served as president and chief executive officer of Mission Community College, located in Santa Clara, and formerly served as the Dean of Student Affairs at City College of San Francisco. From 1987-1991, Chong was special assistant to the Speaker of the California State Assembly, Willie L. Brown, Jr. The Deputy Assistant Secretary position does not require Senate confirmation.

Read more!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Senate HELP Committee Waits on Health Care

October 19, 2009—ACCT continues to wait for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to release its version of the education reconciliation bill. HELP Committee staff have indicated that the bill will be released when the Senate health care debate clears up. If the Senate leaders are unable to gather 60 votes in support of a comprehensive health care bill, the Senate will use the budget reconciliation process to pass the bill. The education reconciliation bill is expected to contain the American Graduation Initiative (AGI). ACCT is hopeful that the Senate will provide greater funding for AGI than the House bill provided.

Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Brenda Dann-Messier to be Assistant Secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) at the Department of Education. Dann-Messier served as president of Dorcas Place, an Adult and Family Learning Center in Providence, R.I. Prior to her work at Dorcas Place, Dann-Messier worked at the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University. Dann-Messier joins Glenn Cummings, Deputy Assistant Secretary of OVAE. The Department of Education has not yet appointed a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges within OVAE.

Read more!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2009 ACCT Leadership Conference: Budig Urges Community College Leaders to Take Advantage of ‘Vote of Confidence’

Professor and Senior Presidential Adviser of The College Board Gene A. Budig urged 2009 ACCT Leadership Conference attendees Saturday to take advantage of the “vote of confidence” community college leaders have received from the Obama Administration.

Budig pointed to remarks made by Education Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter as “reason to have faith that good things are forthcoming.” Calling Education Secretary Arne Duncan “a community college convert,” Budig stressed that “the President shares our belief in the fundamental importance of community colleges and the central role they must play in any true and lasting economic recovery,” he said. “What a vote of confidence you have received.’

Pointing to the ambitious goals of the $12 billion American Graduation Initiative, he urged community college leaders to “be positive and of the mind that yes, we can do it,” he said. He urged community college leaders to address “inadequate accountability systems and the inadequate tracking of student outcomes.”

“Losing half our students before graduation is simply unacceptable,” Budig said. “We can do better. President Obama knows it, and everyone in this room knows it.”

At the same time, Budig added that success “depends on equitable funding and institutional commitment... Governments must step up with their checkbooks.”

Budig told Congress attendees that throughout his wide-ranging academic and professional career, including a stint as president of the American League, he has always been aided by the “simple but profound values” he learned as a student at McCook Community College in Nebraska, and reminded trustees that the one diploma hanging on the wall in his office at the College Board is his A.A. degree from McCook.

The College Board funded a report by the National Commission on Community Colleges that helped elevate community colleges during the most recent presidential race. It is also is launching a pilot plan for an initiative between two- and four-year colleges to help address the “crushing need” for general practice physicians, Budig said.

“Community colleges are committed, creative, determined and strategically located to be successful,” Budig said. “They are, ladies and gentlemen, the future... Please remember the clock is ticking, and the chance to soar is unprecedented... Let us build on our strengths and address our deficiencies. I stand with you and your noble cause.”
Read more!

2009 ACCT Leadership Congress: Incoming ACCT Chair Stresses Accountability, Global Education, Engaging Membership

Incoming ACCT Chair Thomas M. Bennett told attendees of the ACCT 2009 Leadership Congress Saturday that “the time has come for community college leaders to define for ourselves what accountability means in the context of the community college.”

Calling the growing calls for accountability “a critical issue,” Bennett said that community college leaders “need to identify the benchmarks that reflect our multiple missions, our purposes, and student goals, and that demonstrate our successes, our effectiveness, and our impact in our local communities, our states, and our nation.”

A trustee at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., Bennett identified helping students “achieve success in a global economy” and engaging ACCT’s membership through such systems as the association’s state, province and territory coordinator network as the other key challenges for the upcoming year.

“Community colleges had had a great year. We’ve received more attention and focus from the administration, the Congress, and the media than ever before -- and for all the right reasons,” said Bennett. “But there’s more to do.” Read more!

Friday, October 9, 2009

2009 ACCT Leadership Congress: Education Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter Stresses Cooperation, Completion

Pledging to work with ACCT and other groups to “help frame policy that makes sense,” U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter told ACCT 2009 Leadership Congress attendees Friday that the Administration’s $12 billion American Graduation Initiative will require finding ways to “get millions more students to come to college and get through college successfully. That is what we have to do.”

Kanter, who served as chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District from 2003 to 2009, said that she and Education Secretary Arne Duncan share a common vision of a “well-articulated, seamless system of lifelong learning,” encompassing early childhood education through high school and college, as well as adult education and vocational and technical programs.

Yet a full two-thirds of the graduates or certificate holders needed to meet the AGI's 60 percent goal by 2020 will have to be drawn from “the 75 million Americans who have little or no college,” Kanter said. “That’s an enormous challenge” -- especially since only one in four underserved students who start college graduate in under six years, she said.

Funding for the AGI is included in H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, which the House of Representatives passed in September. The Senate version of the bill is expected to be made public soon.

Kanter stressed that “about half” of the grant funding included in the bill will go to access and completion proposals, “so we have many more students successfully go through our institutions.” She added that such initiatives “will have to be evidence-based. We need the accountability behind us to show that federal and state investments are paying off.”

Kanter also outlined increases in Pell Grants and other financial aid, as well as the transition to the federal direct student lending program, expected to be completed by next year. Part of the estimated $87 billion in savings from the transition will be invested back into a wide range of education initiatives, Kanter said.

During a Q&A session with other Department of Education officials later in the day, Kanter told attendees that under the current versions of the AGI legislation, the Department of Education would have the responsibility for defining accountability measures. Kanter said she envisions a “report card-like” system, and called for higher education leaders “to think about what the government needs to know about lifelong learning and how to explain it.” She also pledged to publish criteria for AGI grants for comment to help ensure they will be “fair, objective, and take into account the variations around the country -- rural, urban, and where the underserved communities are.”

Kanter reminded Congress attendees that the Obama Administration’s historic investment in higher education is driven by a simple vision. “[The President’s] goal of widely shared prosperity is something that every trustee, every community college president, and everyone in this audience believes in,” she said. “You’re in charge of supporting and increasing our democracy. This is our work. This is what we’re doing when our students cross the stage.”
Read more!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

2009 ACCT Leadership Congress: Foundations Identify Developmental Education, Focus on Outcomes as Key Challenges

Members of two of the largest foundations involved in higher education and a regional provider entering the higher education realm for the first time shared their perceptions of the joint challenges community colleges and their philanthropic funders face during a Thursday town hall meeting at the 2009 ACCT Leadership Congress. Common themes quickly emerged, including the need to restructure developmental education and reshift thinking to a stronger focus on outcomes.

Earlier in the day, Jamie P. Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation for Education, outlined the group’s goal to have 60 percent of Americans hold high-quality college degrees or credentials by 2025. During the town hall, Dewane Matthews, Lumina’s vice president for policy and strategy, outlined some of the emerging issues the foundation is studying as it evaluates ways to meet that goal, chief among them the question of developmental education. “We’re not going to get to these higher attainment levels with an approach that writes off a large proportion of individuals because they are considered inadequate for some vague definition of college readiness,” Matthews said. “We have to reframe the entire issue and destigmatize developmental education... and create a system that takes people from wherever they are and takes them where they need to go. It’s not remediation -- it’s a completely different orientation.”

Matthews added that the Lumina foundation has also realized the “centrality of learning” involved in meeting attainment goals. “Attainment is tied to real skills... [that higher education] needs to better connect to curriculum,” he said. “Fortunately, campuses are willing to become part of that conversation.”

Diane Troyer, senior program officer of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, described how developmental education surfaced as the “number-one logjam” the foundation has encountered since launching its new post-secondary mission about a year ago. With the foundation’s goal “focused on the disparity between the completion rates of low-income students versus those who do not come out of a background of poverty,” Troyer urged college leaders to consider ways to “realign our institutions around completion.”

“Can we as [community] colleges shift our thinking from an enrollment system to a completion-driven system?” she asked. “Is access access if it doesn’t achieve success?”

As the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund studies way to enter the higher education realm in the San Francisco Bay area, officials are conducting research and networking with both other private and public funders, said Elizabeth Gutierrez, program director for education opportunities. “The federal stimulus has been the most recent wave that has brought us together as funders and grantees,” she said. The Fund’s key issues mirror those of Gutierrez’s national counterparts: scalability, leveraging its work, and outcomes.

While foundation representatives acknowledged that measuring outcomes remains a thorny issue for community colleges, “community colleges need to take the leadership on defining the measures,” Troyer said, pointing to such projects as the Voluntary Framework of Accountability. Matthews suggested that college leaders consider reframing their entire thinking around outcomes: “Our data, our structures, our funding, our policy discussions are all based around institutions,” he said. “What we’re really talking about is a fundamental shift away from an institutional frame to a student frame, with all their incredible backgrounds and diversity of needs and infinite variety of outcomes.”
Read more!

2009 ACCT Leadership Congress: As Conversation Shifts to Accountability, New Frameworks Emerge

The $12 billion earmarked for community colleges by the Obama administration through its American Graduation Initiative represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- but only if institutions are willing to demonstrate progress towards specific goals, speakers at the 2009 ACCT Leadership Congress said Thursday.

“A new paradigm is emerging for community colleges,” ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown told Congress attendees. While “access has been the promise since the inception of the community college movement... now increasing emphasis is being placed on student success and achievement.” In short, community colleges are being called on to “balance access with success,” Brown said.

Keynote speaker Jamie P. Merisotis, President and CEO of the Lumina Foundation for Education, stressed that the AGI, which seeks to increase the number of Americans who earn degrees or certificates by 5 million over the next decade, represents both “a prize and a challenge, a reward and a down payment.”

The AGI closely mirrors the Lumina Foundation’s own goal of having 60 percent of Americans hold high-quality college degrees or credentials by 2025, and both initiatives reflect one simple fact, according to Merisotis: “There’s simply no way for the nation to return to a global position of leadership in attainment unless community colleges lead the way,” he said. “Because of your expertise in creating workforce development programs... and the decades you have spent perfecting cost-effective ways of providing higher education... you can show the way to reshaping higher education that benefits us all.”

Merisotis urged trustees to invest part of the billions in new funding from AGI and other initiatives in involving local stakeholders ranging from K-12 systems to businesses, bolstering developmental programs, and creating new structures “geared towards student success.” He also urged community college leaders to focus on developing measures that “clearly define high-quality outcomes and track student performance.”

One such program is the Voluntary Framework of Accountability. Developed by ACCT and the American Association of Community Colleges, the VFA has been awarded $1 million in grants from the Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it was announced on Oct. 7. The grants will fund pilot projects at eight community colleges, with 20 additional institutions expected to join the project by 2011.

The VSA has the potential to address two common issues in developing a common framework allowing community colleges to collect data and benchmark their metrics against other institutions, Brown said. “We don’t have a common language, and we don’t have a vocabulary rich enough to express what we do in those communities across the country [with] our different missions and constituencies.”

Pointing to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s earlier comments about the importance of workforce education, Brown added that the greatest area of deficiency is on non-credit students. “We can’t describe accurately to policymakers the phenomenal things that go on [with vocational training and education] and how life-changing this is for many people.”

Ronald Williams, vice president of the College Board in Washington, D.C., stressed a key goal of developing such metrics. “Knowing more so you can change the institution is... precisely the point of getting the data.”

Accountability will become an increasingly large issue at the local, state, and federal levels, Congress speakers said. Acknowledging the growing federal role in accreditation issues, keynote speaker Judith S. Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in Washington, D.C., urged trustees to balance such external approaches by developing a complementary “approach to accountability that is community-led and reflective of our core academic values... of mission, independence, and academic freedom.”
Read more!

2009 ACCT Leadership Congress: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Emphasizes Value of Workforce Education

One of Santa Monica College’s most famous alumni kicked off the 2009 ACCT Leadership Congress with a reminder that the work of community colleges has become even more important during the current economic crisis.

“I call community colleges institutions of hope,” said Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger , who left Sacramento in the midst of contentious legislative negotiations to open the Congress Thursday morning. “You provide hope to the laid-off father who needs to provide for his family... the young woman turned away from the university... the budding entrepreneur who wants to go out and create a business... or to immigrants like myself who want to learn the language and be successful. That’s what community colleges represent -- hope.”

At the same time, Schwarzenegger cautioned that given the current economic climate, “you’ll be asked to do more with less, just like the private sector... But I have absolute faith in community colleges, and faith in all of you.” He urged trustees to share innovative ideas and continue to emphasize their critical role in workforce education.

Schwarzenegger began taking classes in English, business, and mathematics at Santa Monica College shortly after arriving in the U.S. in 1968. Read more!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

LAW E-Alert: Congress Passes Continuing Resolution

With the federal fiscal year coming to the end on September 30, Congress moved to pass a Continuing Resolution, which will keep the government running until Congress passes the remaining FY2010 appropriations bills. President Barack Obama signed the bill, which also includes the Legislative Branch appropriations bill, into law. The Continuing Resolution funds the federal programs at FY2009 levels.

ACCT continues to wait for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to release its version of the education reconciliation bill. HELP Committee staff have indicated that the bill should be available within the next two weeks. Most importantly for community colleges, the bill is expected to contain the American Graduation Initiative. Senate leaders are waiting for the health care legislative process to unfold before deciding when to carry out the education-reconciliation process.

In other news, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan penned an editorial, “Moving College into the 21st Century,” which the noted the importance of the American Graduation Initiative. The editorial can be viewed at: Read more!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jill Biden Blogs about Visit to HVCC with President Obama

As part of her ongoing community college public advocacy activities, Dr. Jill Biden has written articles for the official White House blog as well as the Washington Post's education blog detailing her visit to Hudson Valley Community College in New York with President Obama.

On the White House blog, Biden writes that "I wanted to share some photos and thoughts about my day yesterday; I was able to spend time on two areas I care very deeply about: community colleges and military families."

For the Washington Post's blog, she writes, "People often ask me why I choose to teach at a community college. Well—the answer is simple: It’s my students.

"Every day in my classroom," she continues, "I am inspired by their commitment, their struggles, and their belief in education as the best hope for a brighter future for themselves and their families. Every day in my classroom I also see the power of education to break down barriers and to open students’ eyes to the possibilities around them."

Biden notes on the White House blog that she is back in her Northern Virginia Community College classroom today teaching English.

Read Biden's articles at:

Read more!

Monday, September 21, 2009

President Obama and Dr. Biden Visit Hudson Valley Community College, Urge Congress to Pass AGI

Today, President Barack Obama along with Dr. Jill Biden visited Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in New York and toured its technology classrooms. While at HVCC, President Obama publicly renewed his call on Congress to pass the American Graduation Initiative and outlined the Administration’s goal to improve innovation. President Obama noted the importance of institutions like HVCC to prepare students for 21st-century jobs and to prepare America for a 21st-century global economy. President Obama’s speech can be found here:

In other major news, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is expected to release its version of the education reconciliation bill later this week. The HELP Committee will likely consider the bill next week. While the final details of the bill are unclear, the HELP Committee bill is expected to differ in a number of areas from the bill recently passed by the House, H.R. 3221. Most importantly for community colleges, the bill is expected to contain the American Graduation Initiative. Read more!

ACCT President J. Noah Brown Featured in PARADE Magazine's "Intelligence Report"

NoahACCT is pleased to share with you that ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown was the featured interview for the "Intelligence Report" in the September 20, 2009 issue of PARADE magazine. You can find the interview on page 20 of the print magazine.

The interview, titled "Can Education Boost the Economy?," gives significant positive exposure to the mission and important contributions of community colleges to American higher education and our economy.

PARADE is circulated to 33 million households within the United States.

To read the full interview, go to Read more!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

House Passes H.R. 3221

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, by a 253-171 vote. H.R. 3221 represents the largest single federal investment in community colleges in history, totaling $9.5 billion. The bill authorizes President Barack Obama’s American Graduation Initiative which provides funding for community college academic, developmental and job-training programs and community college modernization and construction. The bill also provides $40 billion to increase the Pell Grant maximum over the next ten years.

During the debate on H.R. 3221, the House defeated two efforts to eliminate funding for community colleges. The House defeated an amendment by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), which would have eliminated funds for community college modernization, by a 161-262 vote. The House also defeated an amendment by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), which would have eliminated the American Graduation Initiative and its funding, by a 126-301 vote. The roll call votes on the bill and the amendments can be found at: ACCT would like to thank all the community college leaders who took the time to write or call their representatives in support of H.R. 3121.

The Senate is expected to introduce and consider its own version of the education budget reconciliation within the next four weeks. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will need to report out the legislation by October 15th.

In other news, President Obama is expected to visit Hudson Valley Community College in New York on September 21st.

ACCT’s H.R. 3221 summary of community college related items within the bill can be found at: For more information, contact Jee Hang Lee at or (202) 775-4450. Read more!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

House Set to Consider H.R. 3221 and Two Glaring Amendments

Today, the House will begin consideration of H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009. The House will consider the bill along with 24 amendments. Therefore, it is unclear whether the House will be able to complete action today or tomorrow.

ACCT wanted to alert community college supporters about two problematic amendments. First, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will offer an amendment to strike the entire American Graduation Initiative, Title V, (but maintains the community college modernization section) and put the savings toward deficit reduction. The Foxx amendment would eliminate $7 billion in funding over ten years for community college academic, remedial and job training programs. Second, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) is offering an amendment to eliminate Title III, this would eliminate Section 351, which provides $2.5 billion for community college modernization and construction. ACCT is opposed to both of these amendments and encourages each community college leader to voice their opposition to these two amendments.

A letter can be sent directly to your representatives through ACCT’s Policy Center online at Additionally, you should also make phone calls to your representatives in support of H.R. 3221. Representatives may be reached utilizing the Capitol Switchboard, 202-224-3121.

ACCT’s H.R. 3221 summary of community college related items within the bill can be found at: For more information, contact Jee Hang Lee at or (202) 775-4450.

Read more!

Friday, September 11, 2009

ACCT's Exclusive Interview with Jamie P. Merisotis

Here is the beginning of my post.

Jamie P. Merisotis, President and CEO, Lumina Foundation for Education

The next in ACCT's series of exclusive summer 2009 interviews is with Jamie P. Merisotis, President and CEO of Lumina Foundation for Education. Merisotis is a featured keynote speaker at ACCT's upcoming 40th Annual Community College Leadership Congress in San Francisco, California.

The following interview is an extended-length version of the Q&A printed in the summer 2009 issue of ACCT's magazine, Trustee Quarterly.

Jamie P. Merisotis leads Lumina Foundation for Education, one of the nation’s 45 largest private foundations and arguably one of the greatest advocates for community colleges. Under his leadership, Lumina employs a strategic, outcomes-based approach in pursuing its mission of expanding college access and success, particularly among low-income, minority, and other historically underrepresented populations.

Before joining Lumina in January 2008, Merisotis founded and served for 15 years as president of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Higher Education Policy, one of the world’s premier education research and policy centers. He previously served as executive director of the National Commission on Responsibilities for Financing Postsecondary Education, a bipartisan commission appointed by the U.S. president and congressional leaders. Merisotis also helped create the Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps), and has served on numerous national and international boards of directors, including Scholarship America, the European Access Network in London, and Bates College in Maine.

Q. How much of Lumina’s efforts relate to community colleges?

A significant portion. Lumina Foundation was established in 2000 and has been a supporter of success in community colleges from the beginning. We’ve spent most of the last few years focusing on this big goal of dramatically increasing the number of Americans with high-quality college degrees and credentials. This big goal has effectively become the president’s Best in the World goal. We like to think that we had a contribution toward creating the conditions that made that proposal a possibility.

Q. What are your thoughts on President Obama’s initiative?

The initiative is consistent with the Achieving the Dream initiative because it focuses on student success, the need to create a paradigm shift, and focusing on creating incentives for institutions to improve their developmental education efforts to better the first-year experience and to help improve transfer and articulation rates. All of that is exciting and timely, and something the federal government can have a dramatic impact on moving the needle.

The biggest gap in the public conversation about higher education is that we haven’t really been able to make the clear linkage between workforce development and our postsecondary education system. We’ve been trying to say, particularly in this time of economic crisis, that we don’t need to develop a workforce development system — we already have one. It’s our colleges and universities. And the community colleges are a critical element of that because of the array of opportunities that they provide. So this initiative, this opportunity to have a measureable difference on the nation’s workforce development and having those 5 million more graduates in the pipeline able to contribute to our economic and social health in the country, is very, very encouraging.

Q. Do you think there will be any challenges in getting the initiative passed through Congress?

There will be a lot of conversation about the level of resources, about how to successfully measure, about ensuring that the resources are being applied toward creating the conditions for success. That’s the right conversation. I don’t think that the government can really treat this as stimulus funding for community colleges. It needs to be targeted in a different way around success, and that’s what the president has done.

The real challenge is going to be to ensure that once it’s passed, the regulations and the implementation stay true to that goal of ensuring student success. That’s going to be hard because we’re facing a long-term economic challenge in this country, and community colleges are really going to be hampered in this environment with a lot more pressure in terms of burgeoning enrollments and fewer local and state resources that they’ll need to do their job well.

Q. Has Lumina’s focus on community and technical colleges changed since the recession began?

Not in a specific sense. The switch—and it’s reflected in all of our work—is that as we’re working toward the implementation of our big-goal strategy, we’re seeing that part of what we can leverage is not just improvements in what institutions do, but also influencing the public’s will for change and ultimately supporting public policy advocacy that’s going to help community colleges do more and do better. So in that sense, there has been a shift because we’re emphasizing public will-building and public policy as pillars — or catalysts— toward meeting those outcomes and that big goal.

Q. What can trustees do to take advantage of new public goodwill and public awareness efforts and maintain the momentum?

Trustees have two very good opportunities to help. One is to take part in that public will-building. Trustees tend to be community leaders, and they need to be a part of that advocacy and awareness process in communities. Many colleges and universities in this country miss the opportunity for their boards to be effective advocates. And that means using them as spokespeople in the media, interacting with policy makers, getting out into the community and really making the case.

The other is to meet their fiduciary and other obligations — to ensure the focus of their colleges is the success of students. That may sound like an obvious idea, but as we all know, there is a lot of pressure on colleges to do a lot of different things, and community colleges are asked to play multiple roles in communities — everything from GED training sites to community training centers. Those roles are terribly important, but the focus of the institution needs to be on the academic and social success of students. That means that trustees need to make sure that resources are applied toward making students successful.

Q. Do you see an increased interest in the community college model elsewhere in the world?

Absolutely. I was in Paris recently for the World Conference on Higher Education, and the U.S. delegation was headed by Martha Kanter, the new U.S. Under Secretary of Education and several distinguished higher education leaders including Dr. Jill Biden. The messaging from them was overwhelmingly about the world’s lack of understanding of the U.S. community college model. This was a great opportunity to help bring this message to the world, saying that when we talk about higher education in the United States, this is a big part of that. And it is going to become even more important, given the economic situation.

Under secretary Kanter told me after the conference that she had two dozen bilateral meetings and the majority of them were about the community college model. And I thought that was tremendously interesting, the interest in understanding the differences between the community college model and, say, a technical or polytechnical model that you might see in other countries, as well as the transfer and articulation models that are not very common in most of the rest of the world. There is clearly a lot of interest.

Q. How does the Lumina Foundation define student success?

Our definition of student success is measurable, transparent learning outcomes for students. We’re interested in ensuring that students know, understand, and are able to do something with their postsecondary credential. That means being able to demonstrate proficiency both with content in whatever program the student is in, and being able to demonstrate generalizable skills, analyze problems and express oneself effectively. Both can be measured.It also means we should do a better job of measuring and evaluating the success of student outcomes.
Graduation rates are one tool in the toolbox, but the current way in which we measure graduation rates is quite ineffective for a variety of reasons. At the national level, we really only have the capacity to measure first-time, full-time students, which is the minority of students at community colleges. So if we can do a better job of creating graduation-rate calculations, graduation rates could be a better measure, but we have to focus less on that than on the question of what students are learning and what they are doing with that knowledge.

Q. Is that something Lumina is investigating?

We’re doing so in a couple of ways. We supported the National Survey of Student Engagement, the Collegiate Learning Assessment, and other tools. We are now experimenting with a derivative from international models — something the Europeans have done called the Bologna Process. This takes a discipline-based approach — graphic design, physics, for example — and develops models of what students need to know, understand, and be able to do with their credential in that area. It’s a faculty-driven process called “tuning” that includes the input of employers, recent graduates, institutional leaders, and students. The idea is to tune the academic program to what the students are actually doing with that specific credential. That’s a great example of how we’re trying to push the envelope in doing a better job of defining and ultimately measuring the learning outcomes for students. We’re also supporting some other experiments. For example, there’s an effort just getting under way supported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that measures learning outcomes across countries, and we’re going to try to contribute to this experiment.

Q. What is the role of community colleges in learning preparedness?

Preparation is key to success in college. We believe there is a combination of key economic, financial, and social factors that make you prepared for college. And what we need not to treat them as stovepipes, but as interactive and interconnected elements of what ultimately becomes student success in college — not just making sure they’ve taken the right courses or have financial aid, or the right counseling. The reality is that they need all of those to be successful in college. One of the ways community colleges can play an important role is improving success rates for individuals in remedial courses and programs. And that’s one way that the American Graduation Initiative could be particularly helpful in helping community colleges do a better job of getting more students through developmental work and therefore ready for success in college.

Q. With all of the new pressures from increased enrollments and physical classroom capacity demands, what can community college trustees do to maintain the focus on student success and meeting the needs that were there before the recession was a factor?

Boards are the public conscience of these institutions, and in that role, they need to be the ones who [ask], “Are our programs relevant to the needs of this community or this region?” That’s easy to say and hard to do, because you’ve got the reality of employees and contracts, for example, that you’ve got to work through. But maintaining a focus on workforce relevance is something boards can do particularly well.

They can also use their own stature in their communities to elevate the profile of the college. I come across too many community colleges and too many community college leaders who use the line that “community colleges are one of America’s best-kept secrets.” We need to stop being modest about the important role of community colleges. There is some lingering stigma for some people associated with community colleges, which you can see reflected in popular culture, and boards can help de-stigmatize what community colleges do and help elevate the profile of community colleges within their communities.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Congress Returns and Senator Tom Harkin Takes Gavel of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

Congress Returns and Senator Tom Harkin Takes Gavel of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

September 10, 2009 - With Congress returning this week, the House and Senate have a full slate of activities to address in the coming weeks and months. Congress is expected to consider a number of bills that cover the appropriations process, as well as the education budget reconciliation bill, which will contain President Obama’s American Graduation Initiative. The House is expected to consider H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, this month. ACCT’s H.R. 3221 summary can be found at:

Meanwhile, with the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has taken over the chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Senator Harkin is a strong supporter of community colleges and led the effort during the stimulus debate to ensure that community colleges received their fair share of infrastructure funds. The HELP Committee is expected to release its version of the education budget reconciliation later this month and is looking to pass the bill in early October. Read more!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ACCT's Exclusive Interview with Dr. Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and a longtime community college instructor and advocate, is featured in the summer 2009 issue of Trustee Quarterly, the award-winning magazine published by the Association of Community College Trustees.

In the interview, Biden discusses her new appointment by President Obama to serve as a global advocate for community colleges, explains why she is so committed to community college students and the community college mission, and more.

And if you are an ACCT member, watch your mailbox for the new issue of Trustee Quarterly, which also features interviews with Lumina Foundation President Jamie Merisotis, College Board Professor and Senior Presidential Adviser Dr. Gene A. Budig, and Council for Higher Education Accreditation President Dr. Judith S. Eaton. ACCT will be posting extended versions of these interviews right here, on the Community College Inside the Beltway blog, in the coming weeks as the 40th Annual ACCT Congress approaches.

Showcasing America’s Community Colleges

An exclusive interview with Dr. Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, has been an educator for the past 28 years and continues to teach English Classes at Northern Virginia Community College.

Dr. Biden has a long history of activism in her community, and she continues to work to raise awareness on education, military families, and women’s health issues. Given her professional experience and passion, President Obama has asked Dr. Biden to help highlight the importance of America’s community colleges, and she frequently visits community colleges and speaks with students, parents, and teachers around the country as part of this outreach.

Dr. Biden spoke with Trustee Quarterly about the new awareness initiative and the source of her commitment to the community college movement.

Q. On May 8, President Barack Obama announced that you will “lead a national effort to raise awareness about what we’re doing to open the doors to our community colleges.” What does this national effort entail?

I have always said that I believe community colleges are one of the best-kept secrets in America — and now my job is to get that secret out through various events, outreach, and media. By supporting community colleges and encouraging increased community college graduation rates, the Obama-Biden Administration is laying the path to success for millions of Americans, and I could not be more pleased to help spread the word. I will continue to visit campuses around the country, speak to groups of parents, teachers, and students, and work to increase media attention around the value of a community college education.

Q. How do you think President Obama’s recognition of the value of community and technical colleges compares with the attitude of past administrations?

It’s clear from the President’s recent announcement of the American Graduation Initiative that not only does he believe in community colleges — he is willing to commit a landmark federal investment to support them. I believe that community colleges are the way of the future, and President Obama recognizes their importance to the students, their families, and the economy. The President has asked me to spread the word about community colleges, and he has also has encouraged me to recruit more teachers.

Q. You’ve taught in public schools as well as community colleges, and you have been quoted as saying, “I really feel, especially in a community college, I can make a difference.” In what ways do community colleges have a greater impact on students’ lives than other education systems?

There was never a question in my mind when we moved to Washington, D.C., that I would continue to teach at a community college. I have witnessed firsthand the power of a community college education to change lives, and I think that the smaller class sizes, the nurturing environment, and the personal contact make a difference in supporting students. In my classes, I get to know my students well and am able to partner with each of them to help them succeed.

Q. Your doctoral dissertation focused on community college student retention. If you were to write that dissertation today, would it be different?

I would say that getting community students into community colleges (and college generally) is one step, but keeping them there and ensuring their success is another. That is why I am so pleased the president announced the American Graduation Initiative recently. As part of that initiative, the president wants community colleges to get the resources they need to graduate an additional 5 million students in the next decade.

Q. If you were serving on the governing board of a community college right now, what would be your three greatest areas of priority?

My first priority would be increasing student retention and completion. While community colleges serve a variety of missions, we cannot understate the importance of graduating students. In response to data showing that the number of jobs requiring at least an associate’s degree will likely grow twice as fast as jobs that don’t require any college, the President set a new national goal of 5 million community college graduates over the next 10 years. And he has shown the administration’s commitment to giving community colleges the resources they need to meet that goal.

Access and affordability are also pressing priorities. Community colleges should work with the larger community to identify ways they can serve the potential students in the area by making them aware of their options. Enrolling in a community college can actually be much more affordable than people may think. The president has increased the maximum Pell Grant award to make community colleges a low-cost, quality option for many students.

The administration is also working to make community colleges affordable for the unemployed by allowing them to continue receiving unemployment benefits while getting job retraining at one of these institutions. Displaced workers can go to to learn more about job retraining options available to them.

Finally, affordability and graduation rates mean nothing if education is not high quality.

These institutions need to ensure their programs are relevant and meet the needs of all the student populations they serve. Students need to be adequately prepared for their next steps — whether it’s training for jobs of the future, transferring to a 4-year university, or working toward an associate’s degree. This will involve innovative curriculum development, and cooperation between community colleges and local, regional, and national industry to develop training programs that will give students the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Q. You have said that your goal is “to reach out to as many people as possible to explain how this administration is committed to supporting Americans who could benefit from community college educations.” What can community college trustees and other advocates do to build upon your outreach efforts?

The challenge grants the president announced [recently] are competitive and will only fund programs that have proven outcomes or that will be closely evaluated. Institutions should use this opportunity to find new and better ways to help students succeed and to forge meaningful partnerships with industry.

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