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:

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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.

Read more!