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.
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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.

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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.

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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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!