Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 ACCT Congress: Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Esther Brimmer Stresses Community Colleges’ Role in Economic and National Security

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Esther Brimmer kicked off the 2010 ACCT Leadership Congress by stressing the critical role community colleges play in meeting the nation’s economic and national security challenges and encouraging their leaders to "think globally and act locally" by creating partnerships to support students in the U.S. and abroad.

“Education helps address the global problems we face every day by strengthening human rights and democracy, creating economic opportunity, and combating violent extremism,” said Brimmer, who leads the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs. “We cannot achieve our objectives abroad without strengthening education at home."

As President Barack Obama did during the White House Summit on Community Colleges, Brimmer framed the Administration’s goal of increasing the number of community college graduates by 5 million over the next decade in economic terms. Pointing to the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant program and increases in Pell Grants, Brimmer noted that the Administration “stands with you as you seek new ways to strengthen the impact of community colleges in the United States and internationally.”

Interest in community colleges is spreading globally, said Brimmer, whose department is working to promote the model through a number of initiatives. “Countries are turning to community colleges because they see them as institutions that can serve their local communities,” she said, adding that they can play a key role in UNESCO’s Education for All campaign, which seeks to meet the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015. Those needs are growing, she said, due to the rise of urbanism and an emerging middle class in many developing countries, creating “a demand for more [workforce] skills than at any period in history."

Throughout the world, enrollment in colleges and universities increased by nearly 60 percent over the past eight years -- and by 94 percent in developing countries. U.S. community colleges can help meet that burgeoning demand in a variety of ways, including by serving growing numbers of foreign students studying in the U.S., Brimmer said. Noting that 14 percent of foreign students currently attend community colleges, Brimmer said that the schools are "in an excellent position to take advantage of the cultural and linguistic diversity on their campuses.” Community colleges can also “think globally and act locally,” Brimmer said, by supporting programs like the Model United Nations, developing partnerships with institutions around the world, and offering affordable study abroad programs for their own students.

“I am confident that American community colleges will continue to create new relationships that bring us together around our shared values of affordable, accessible, and high quality education.. and lift the rising tide of education beyond our shores to be shared globally,” Brimmer said.

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