Thursday, May 21, 2009

Center for American Progress Hosts Thought Leaders from White House, Lumina, Gates, JFF & Boeing

This morning, the Center for American Progress hosted a panel of thought leaders to deliberate on "Getting to Work: The Tough Journey of Getting to More Postsecondary Degrees." Panelists (see below) explored opportunities and challenges of meeting President Obama's challenge to increase the number of Americans with postsecondary credentials. While not billed explicitly as a discussion on community college education, the discussion was almost exclusively about the importance of community colleges and ways in which to promote, improve and grow the community college system.

Opening remarks were given by James Kvall, senior director of the White House National Economic Council and Rick Stephens, senior vice president of human resources and administration for the Boeing Company. Featured panelists included:
  • Jamie Merisotis, CEO, Lumina Foundation for Education
  • Arthur M. Hauptman, independent policy consultant
  • Nancy Hoffman, vice president, Jobs for the Future
  • Nisha Patel, program officer for special initiatives, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The discussion was moderated by Louis Soares, director of economic mobility, Center for American Progress.

Merisotis, a featured keynote speaker at ACCT's upcoming 40th Annual Community College Leadership Congress in San Francisco, said "for too long, we have focused on means, not goals." "I'm optimistic about the chance to improve community college with the support of the Obama Administration," Merisotis said, "but we still have a long way to go."

Findings of a Center for American Progress paper published in February, "The Other College: Retention and completion rates among two-year college students," were discussed. The study discusses later academic performance of community college students, as well as completion statistics and determines that "America’s future economic success may well depend on how we invest in two-year institutions. National leaders would be wise to move the 'other college' to the forefront of the postsecondary policymaking arena."

Hauptman read from a new study he co-authored with Young Kim entitled "Cost, Commitment and Completion in Higher Education: An International Comparison." Hauptman indicated three goals that he believes should be sought: 1) Focus more attention and resources on community colleges; 2) Develop strategies to improve completion rates and; 3) Consider higher enrollment as a means to moderate costs per student and improve productivity.

The overall message given by the panel suggested that improvements to America's community colleges are necessary, but that these colleges are of great, and increasing, importance to the nation's education system and economy.

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