Saturday, October 23, 2010

2010 ACCT Congress: Incoming ACCT Chair Outlines Key Partnerships, Priorities

As the 2010 ACCT Congress in Toronto drew to a close, incoming ACCT Chair Peter E. Sercer Sr. stressed the importance of “game-changing” partnerships and initiatives that bring community colleges, philanthropies, and industry together to “reinvent the economic and social compact that will lift our nation to greater heights.”

Touching on the ACCT Board of Directors’ Access for Success initiative, the new Chair stressed the importance of initiatives that will help “shift us from enrollment driven policies to a policy of access with student success,” said Sercer, a trustee at Midlands Technical College in South Carolina. “We have worked to create partnerships and programs with this vision in mind and are well on our way to strengthening accountability and student success through governance.”

Sercer detailed five key ACCT initiatives currently underway in partnership with a range of corporate and philanthropic partners -- the Voluntary Framework of Accountability, the Governance Institute on Student Success, the association’s new partnership with Single Stop USA, an organization that provides community-based financial and legal services and counseling, 10,000 Small Businesses, a Goldman Sachs initiative that helps foster entrepreneurial skills, and the first-ever Summit on Completion, held immediately preceding the Congress.

“All five of these major initiatives are game changers that will help equip trustees with the tools and strategies they need to transform their schools and communities,” Sercer said, adding that he will seek additional strategic partnerships during his tenure as ACCT chair. Establishing accountability policies for the ACCT Board of Directors, strengthening the State Coordinators Network, and improving communications and accessibility are among Sercer’s other goals during the upcoming year.

“Together we will help redefine community colleges as the colleges of first choice and continue to emphasize... that community colleges are among our most important education institutions,” Sercer said.

Previous 2010 ACCT Leadership Congress Coverage:
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Friday, October 22, 2010

2010 ACCT Congress: Education Department Officials Detail Community College and Career Training Program, Completion Agenda

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Education stressed Friday at the 2010 ACCT Leadership Congress that the $2 billion in community college workforce training grants signed into law earlier this year can--and should--be used to help advance the completion agenda.

“What does [the Community College and Career Training Program] have to do with completion? Everything,” Amy Laitinen, policy advisor to the assistant secretary in the Education Department’s office of vocational and adult education, told Congress attendees. “Most trade-impacted students look a lot like your students.... When you create programs with those [students] in mind, we hope that many of them will impact many more students.... We want to think more broadly.”

“Looking at the federal agenda, it’s all about completion, and it’s had a real viral effect down to your campuses,” said U.S. Education Deputy Assistant for Community Colleges Frank Chong. “We know we have to make systemic change.”

While the federal government provides less than 10 percent of total community college funding through its broad array of grant programs, CCCTP has the potential to “leverage transformations in colleges,” said Laitinen. Despite the program’s auspices under the Trade Adjustment Act, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor with support from the Education Department, the grants should be seen as an opportunity to create programs that support workforce and student success agendas, officials said.

The grant program will focus largely on supporting programs that either meet new local workforce needs or offer new approaches to delivering or teaching skills; both technical and academic skills can be emphasized. At the same time, “the connection between employers and colleges is extremely important,” Chong added. “It’s an employment education program, but careers are the main focus.” For that reason, grant applicants should look at ways to collaborate with workforce boards and other local organizations to ensure that programs “meet the education and training needs of the population for jobs in the community,” Laitinen said.

Accountability will be key, speakers cautioned. “What we’re really looking to do is to drive federal dollars to programs that are driven to work,” Laitinen said. “Where we don’t have evidence, we’re looking to build an evidence base.”

With the solicitation of grant applications expected in the coming months, not all the details of the program have been finalized. But many aspects of the program mirror the Community Based Job Training Initiative, said Judith Cawhorn, executive director of grant development at Mott Community College in Michigan. “That’s a good thing, because we know how to talk about career pathways, work with industry, and identify needs,” she said. At the same time, there will likely be significant differences, in part because the program does not include funds for training. “The emphasis is on building new programs and filling some new needs,” she said.

While all the specifics of the program won’t be known until the grant application information is released, “your colleges should be in the thick of conversations” with industry and potential partners, Cawhorn said. Trustees can play a strong role by leveraging their industry and community connections, she added.

Chong and Laitinen referred attendees to a Trustee Quarterly Q&A on CCCTP with Department of Education Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter and Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Jane Oates, as well as a factsheet on the program, both of which are available here.

Department officials also discussed the broader policy direction of the Education Department. On the department’s ongoing examination of accountability issues, “we are hopeful that your work with the Voluntary Framework of Accountability will inform our efforts,” Laitinen said. The department also plans to continue the work that began at the White House Summit on Community Colleges with a virtual summit and listening tours next year, according to Chong, who identified articulation, better serving veterans, and examining competencies and prior knowledge through new assessments versus “seat time” as key challenges for community colleges to pursue. Chong also acknowledged the financial challenges community colleges face, and credited ACCT and AACC’s leadership for providing valuable insights and support.

“During these difficult times, it’s all about partnering,” Chong said. “[ACCT and AACC] have been great partners to have.”
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 ACCT Congress: Maintaining Momentum on the Completion Agenda

Community college leaders continued discussing shifting the focus of their institutions to produce more graduates and certificate holders at the 2010 ACCT Leadership Congress Thursday. With the imminent election of as many as 30 new governors nationwide, continued work on the Voluntary Framework of Accountability, and the need to prepare college leaders to support student success, “we have a lot of work to do in the next 12 months,” ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown told a standing room-only group of community college leaders at a town hall meeting.

In candid discussions throughout the day, community college leaders explored some of the challenges and strategies needed to maintain momentum on the completion agenda. One key, speakers said, will be ensuring that boards of trustees and college presidents are on the same page.

“Trustees have been listening to the President of the United States saying we need to educate and complete... We really need to support [college presidents] if they have the courage to do the right thing,” said Thomas W. Malone, a trustee at Seattle Community Colleges. “There’s a realization that if we support each other, we can do the necessary difficult things.”

“These courageous conversations are going on in board rooms across the country,” added Karen Stout. As president of Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania, Stout has replaced her reports on enrollment to her board of trustees with a student success report, and she credits her board with patience as faculty members brought a redesign of a developmental math curriculum up to scale. “Yes, it was too slow, but will move the institution ahead in the long run,” Stout said.

Increasing leaders’ capacity to focus on student success is one goal of the the Governance Institute for Student Success, a joint effort of ACCT and the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, with support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. After participating in a pilot of GISS that brought together community college trustees and leaders from across Ohio, “we’re starting to see conversations where you have access and success almost at the same level,” said Lawrence Porter, a trustee at Sinclair Community College. “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”

With new governors in statehouses facing severe budget crises, the collection and use of data will become critical, said Travis Reindl, program director at the National Governors Association. Repeating a theme emphasized by many participants during the Pre-Congress Summit on Completion, Reindl stressed that “we’ve come to the realization that policymaking by anecdote hasn’t worked, doesn’t work, and won’t work. Until we have some really solid metrics behind us, we cannot get about the business of increasing the number of degree and certificate holders the economy needs.”

In the absence of relevant data, all too often higher education policy is still “focused on the full-time on-campus student,” not the first generation, low-income and minority students that are increasingly defining the “21st century student,” said Mark Milliron, deputy director for post-secondary improvement for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To that end, U.S. Education Deputy Assistant for Community Colleges Frank Chong told town hall attendees that his department is “taking a serious look for the first time in a long time” at revamping the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS) reporting procedures. The Voluntary Framework for Accountability, under development by ACCT, AACC, and The College Board, has been included in discussions on accountability metrics at both the Education Department and the National Governors Association.

“We are not going to flip the funding model in our favor unless we demonstrate accountability,” Brown said. “The best change element for flipping those levers are the boards.”

Chong also stressed that the Education Department is looking to the local level for solutions that can be shared. “Programs... in workforce development, in working with low-skill adults and getting students through the pipeline are happening at your campuses,” he said. “The challenge is how do we duplicate and replicate these programs to help other community colleges that might not have the type of resources that you have.”

Town hall attendees shared examples of successful programs at their colleges, including math tutoring labs, counseling programs, working with K-12 students and systems, and combined basic education and workforce skills training. The challenge remains building those programs to scale -- and, often, making strategic decisions exacerbated by tight budgets. Pointing to the I-BEST program developed by the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, Milliron notes that pairing workforce and basic skill instructors is more expensive -- yet increases student completion rates significantly. “You’re gong to have to have strategic sets of conversations,” he said.

Lest anyone doubt that trustees play the key role in shaping those conversations, I-BEST was the brainchild of a fellow trustee, Malone said. Pointing to the Democracy’s Challenge Call to Action signed by ACCT and other community college organizations, American Association for Community Colleges President and CEO George Boggs urged community college leaders to sign similar pledges on their own campuses. “It’s going to take all of us, but especially trustees and CEOs, to commit to this,” he said. And by way of example, Mauri Moore of Edmonds Community College in Washington told town hall attendees that she has pledged to graduate an additional 350 students from her institution each year over the next decade--her college’s share of the 5 million additional degree and certificate holders called for by President Barack Obama. When broken down to the individual college level, that goal “doesn’t sound too scary,” she said.
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2010 ACCT Congress: Update on Federal Legislative Priorities

The $2 billion Community College and Career Training Program, proposed regulations that could impact community college career certification programs, and the federal appropriations process were among the key public policy priorities outlined during a Thursday session at the 2010 ACCT Leadership Congress.

Among the programs discussed were:

The Community College and Career Training Program. Enacted as part of the landmark Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, the CCCTP allocates $500 million annually for four years to help community colleges develop workforce programs. While the program is under the aegis of the Trade Adjustment Act, the grants are expected to focus on the development of new programs, according to Jim Hermes, director of government relations for the American Association of Community Colleges. “The Department of Labor has emphasized over and over that this program is going to be about ‘building the box’,” he said.

The Department of Labor is expected to issue a solicitation for grant applications shortly, with applications due early next year and awards potentially announced in the spring. According to Hermes, the DOL considers $2.5 million to be the minimum grant size for individual institutions, with consortia eligible for higher awards. Department officials have also emphasized the importance of grant applications focusing on reform and innovation. “This is not going to be for mere program expansion,” Hermes said.

Gainful Employment Regulations The Department of Education has proposed two rule-making documents that would provide new regulations overseeing what job training and certification programs will remain eligible for students to receive federal financial aid. Targeted at the for-profit college sector, which collectively amassed $2.7 billion in profits in 2009, the proposed regulations could also impact the 170,000 students who receive certification at community colleges each year, said David Baime, AACC senior vice president for government relations and research. While the for-profit sector is engaged in a furious lobbying effort to thwart the proposed regulations, ACCT and AACC believe the new rules, which would set standards related to student debt/earning ratios and loan repayment rates, would not pose problems for most community college programs, whose students rarely borrow money. The two associations do remain concerned, however, about the additional regulatory and reporting burdens at a time when community colleges have limited resources to devote to them, Baime said.

American Opportunity Tax Credit. Included in the 2009 stimulus legislation, the AOTC replaced the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit, offering community college students a higher maximum credit, as well as the ability to apply the credit to course materials for the first time. The AOTC expires at the end of the year, and extending it for another 10 years would cost $58 billion, Baime said. Despite support from the Administration, “in a Congress increasingly concerned about deficit spending, that’s a high hurdle,” he added, especially since it is likely to become embroiled in the debate over extending the Bush tax cuts, which are also expiring. Should the AOTC not be extended, the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit would still be available, according to Baime.

Appropriations. With the uncertainty of midterm elections, none of the appropriation bills for FY11 were approved before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year, said Jee Hang Lee, ACCT director of public policy. Of key concern is the Pell Grant program, which has increased from serving 5 million to nearly 9 million students. While $13.5 billion was provided to address Pell Grant shortfalls in the healthcare reconciliation bill earlier this year, the program still has a $5.7 billion shortfall, and could see a reduction in the maximum award if that shortfall isn’t addressed, according to Lee. The Career Pathways Program has also been eliminated, in part because it was supposed to be replaced by components of the American Graduation Initiative. On the state level, the $10 billion education jobs bill passed earlier this year did not include funds for public higher education, but did include a provision requiring states to provide level funding for public colleges and universities. “We’re hopeful that the maintenance of effort [provision] will help states maintain a level of funding,” Lee said.

DREAM Act. A push for a Senate vote on the legislation fell short ahead of the midterm elections. The current legislative priority remains attempting to get it considered separately from any comprehensive immigration reform bill, though the timing remains unclear, according to Lee.

The focus on the legislative agenda will continue at the 2011 National Legislative Summit, held Feb. 13-16 in Washington, D.C.
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2010 ACCT Congress: Progress on Voluntary Framework of Accountability Detailed

ACCT Leadership Congress attendees were updated on the status of the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA), which will release a draft of its proposed initial measures next month, and heard community college leaders explain the value of “defining ourselves to the public.”

Once complete, the VFA will allow community colleges to “speak with one voice about the comprehensiveness of what we do and the unique nature of our students,” said Karen A. Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania.

To be released in a draft technical manual in November, the proposed stage one VFA measures are broken into three major components:

Student progress and outcomes measures. The proposed measures examine student progress at entry and through their time at a college. “One thing we know is that community college students follow a pipeline towards final outcomes,” said Kent A. Phillippe, associate vice president of research and student success at the American Association of Community Colleges, which is working with ACCT and The College Board to develop the VFA. “That’s why it’s important to get measures along the way, not just at the end.”

Measures of college readiness include students attempting their first English or math developmental education course; successfully completing developmental courses; and then attempting and successfully completing their first college-level course in the same subject area.

Measures of student progress and persistence include successfully reaching credit milestone thresholds at the end of two years; continued enrollment or lateral transfer to another two-year institution; and a course success rate.

Measures of outcomes and success include a complete degree or certificate; transfer to a four-year institution; or continued enrollment with academic progress.

Workforce, Economic, and Community Development Measures. These include enrollment data and retention rates for workforce measures; awards in Career and Technical Education programs; pass rates on licensure examinations; measures of program graduates employed with livable wages or enrolled in further education; wage growth of graduates; enrollments and credentials from non-credit workforce development courses; and transition from non-credit to credit programs. Additional measures to be added later include metrics involving adult basic education, GED and ESL programs. While not all colleges currently have the ability to collect some of this data, it’s important to say “this is what we should be doing to measure those outcomes,” Phillippe said.

Student Learning Outcomes. Eight potential outcomes proposed by a VFA working group include content/career specific skills and knowledge; global understanding and citizenship; analytical reasoning and critical thinking; information literacy; teamwork and collaborative skills; communication; quantitative literacy; and innovative and creative thinking. During the first stage, the working group will ask colleges to evaluate these outcomes and determine if they align with learning outcomes assessed by their institutions. “We can’t do a lot of work at this point without knowing better what colleges are doing,” Phillippe said.

As much work will go into how to display metrics represented by these measures, according to Phillippe. For example, measures of student outcomes would likely be displayed on a stacked bar, reflecting the cumulative impact of students receiving a degree, transferring to a four-year institution, and continuing to work towards a degree. The metrics will also likely be broken into sub-cohorts, including students who have demonstrated by their course load or other evidence that they intend to pursue a degree. “We need to be accountable for all students, but it’s important to get a sense of student intent,” Phillippe said.

Following the release of the draft measures for feedback, work will continue on developing wireframes to display the data. RFPs have also been issued for colleges willing to serve as pilot sites to test the measures, and working groups are ensuring that the completed framework reflects the needs and capacity of large and small colleges, as well as those in states that currently collect data and those that do not. The VFA working groups have also briefed the U.S. Department of Education and the National Governors Association, which are in the process of developing accountability systems of their own, said Phillippe.

Trustees will be able to use data collected by the VFA to “benchmark against national standards,” said Jeanne-Marie Boylan, board chair of Bunker Hill Community College in Massachusetts. They will also be able to use the data to benchmark and set policies supporting student completion, according to Carolane Williams, president of Baltimore County Community College in Maryland, which already uses student data to evaluate student intervention programs, including an “early alert” system that has helped retain struggling students. The framework will also allow community colleges to compare “apples to apples” by looking at similar institutions across the country to identify programs that are working, Williams added.

“We have a broad mission, and our mission is to serve people where they are,” she said. “The VFA identifies that, while other measures would lock us into a narrower mission and leave out people on the other end.”

For more information on the VFA, click here.

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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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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Completion Summit Moves From Discussion to Action

Following a morning discussion that framed the national perspective on the completion agenda, ACCT's Summit on Completion came to a close with a host of recommendations in areas ranging from finance and metrics to partnerships and curriculum, as well as a call for community college leaders to continue their efforts to increase the number of Americans who receive a college degree or credential.

For much of the day, summit attendees broke into smaller groups to develop recommendations in five priority areas. Their findings included:

Finance and funding. To better serve students, institutions and boards need to consider four key areas: the distribution of student aid, the flexibility colleges have in disbursing aid, examining whether aid policies can provide students with incentives to continue pursuing degrees, and encouraging both college staff and community organizations to increase awareness of financial aid and help students apply for it.

When it comes to institutional funding, summit participants suggested that it may be time to discuss prioritizing the roles community colleges play in the context of existing financial resources. Boards should also explore new revenue sources, including fundraising and entrepreneurial initiatives, and how those new sources of funding can be increased by focusing on key areas. "As we prioritize transparently and explicitly, we build the case for that next dollar that comes from external [sources]... and unleash a virtuous cycle," said Travis Rendl, program director for the National Governors Association.

Student success. Linking access with completion will require a variety of approaches, including stronger alignment between K-12 curriculum and college requirements through such structures as K-14/16 councils and programs including middle colleges and dual enrollment that can "stop the leaks in the pipeline," said Michael Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association. Other key priorities include strengthening "front-door" student services, such as financial aid and counseling.

Curriculum and pedagogy. The focus group stressed the need to develop methodologies focused on helping underserved students and veterans be more successful in the community college setting. Other priorities include better assessment and instructional models that build faculty capacity to teach, such as the Universal Design for Learning, said Jean Torgeson, board chair of North Iowa Area Community College, as well as the need to develop "stackable" credentials and certifications that allow students to make progress towards a degree. Torgeson also stressed the value of rigorous standards, finding ways to better explain expectations and procedures to students, and providing supports to help working parents and other students complete their education.

Partnerships and the K-16 pipeline. With the administration's focus on developing workplace skills throughout a student's like, a key need is helping K-12 students see connections between careers and the skills they need to attain them. The group cited the examples of community colleges whose counselors visit students to discuss job skills as early as in the 6th grade and the Department of Labor's site, which helps identify key workplace skills for target careers. Trustees must also be persistent in requesting better and more transparent data on student outcomes and work with policymakers and their peers in K-12 systems to address alignment and curriculum issues. "It's cradle to career, and we all have a stake," said Greg Schuckman, board chair at Northern Virginia Community College.

Data and metrics. The group stressed the importance of developing a common approach to metrics, including using the Voluntary Framework for Accountability as a way of ensuring congruence as other organizations develop or refine their own measures. Avoiding "chasing certain metrics" at the expense of others and providing support for community colleges and policymakers to develop and disaggregate longitudinal student data were other priorities. "If we're going to be successful in the budget office, the state capital or the nation's capital... we have to understand what the data is saying to us," said Dr. Dan Phelan, president of Jackson Community College.

During a question-and-answer session that concluded the summit, Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin's Community College Leadership Program, stressed that 90 percent of community college students are convinced "they have the commitment it takes to succeed."

"When community college students show up in the parking lot, they are jazzed," McClenney said, adding that 84 percent of the more than 2 million community college students surveyed by the Community College Leadership Program also believed they are prepared to succeed academically, though that is at times because they have limited knowledge of what will be expected of them. "They don't bring college knowledge with them -- we just assume that they do," McClenney said.

Students also suffer from low expectations once they arrive at school--by the end of the third week of class, 40 percent of new community college students have skipped class, and 30 percent have turned in an assignment late, or not at all, according to the survey. "No one rises to low expectations," McClenney said. "Our responsibility is to decide what the educational experience is going to be like at every one of our institutions."

To do that will require changing long-held notions. Describing how higher education was formerly considered a collective good following the passage of the GI Bill and the National Education Defense Act, ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown urged attendees to "go back to the future, and... make this a shared value across the nation."

"Let's make a promise," Brown said. "We will go out, do what's necessary, and make a difference."
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Pre-Congress Summit Focuses on Completion

With the attention of the White House, governors, policymakers, and philanthropic foundations all focused on increasing the number of Americans who hold a college degree or credential, "suddenly it seems that higher education is really where the action is," Samuel Cargile, vice president of The Lumina Foundation, observed during ACCT's Summit on Completion. "With that, it's also an opportune time to ask some critical questions."

Community college leaders attending the one-day summit in Toronto -- immediately preceding and setting the tone for the 2010 ACCT Leadership Congress -- did just that, focusing a critical eye on the ways in which community colleges are working to shift their model from access to success. “It’s vitally important that trustees are involved in this conversation,” said ACCT Chair Thomas Bennett, trustee at Parkland College in Illinois.

The one-day summit followed the White House Summit on Community Colleges earlier in the month and the creation of the Skills for America's Future, a White House-led effort to build partnerships between industry and community colleges. Those moves mirror initiatives launched by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation, both of which have set ambitious goals for increasing the number of college graduates.

"The goals may be a little different, the language may be a little different, but everybody is getting on board and knowing we've got to do a better job," says Linda Baer, senior program officer of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown discussed how the completion agenda has become embedded in a variety of initiatives that ACCT has become involved in, including the Voluntary Framework for Accountability, Democracy's Colleges Call to Action, and the Governance Institute for Student Success.

"We are very serious about creating the toolkit you need to advance this agenda," Brown said.

Baer described how the Gates Foundation's Completion by Design initiative focuses on "a pathway model" that creates connections for students from enrollment through completion. Under such a system, "[students] don't just come through the doors and wander around," she said.

Noting that one in six blue-collar workers lost his or her job during the current recession, Dr. Ronald Williams, vice president of The College Board, stressed the importance of improving completion rates in stark terms. "The middle holds America together," he said, warning that the declining middle class poses a threat to democracy. "The work you do is in closing the gap that I see expanding and accelerating."

From the business perspective, it's critical that community colleges prepare students for today's global -- and increasingly uncertain -- economy, stressed Philip Berry, president of Philip Berry Associates and vice-chair of the City University of New York. "We have to come up with methodologies that help students where they are, not where we want them to be," he said.

Data is the key to addressing completion issues, stressed Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin's Community College Leadership Program. "Community colleges have lived long and pretty comfortably with the anecdote—students whose lives have changed. But...[anecdotes] do not tell the story of the typical student experience... what we have got to get ready to do is understand honestly what happens to students when they move through our system—or don't."

While students have many reasons for failing to receive a degree from community colleges, the reality is that poor students, older students and minorities face much higher odds of completing college, McClenney said. "Until the choice not to persist or graduate is equitably distributed across students by race, age, or income level, this is an argument we can no longer countenance," she said.

To tackle persistent completion issues, colleges will need not only systems and processes to track students, but to disaggregate that data to get the "full picture" of how all students are performing. "Once you have data, you have to be willing to use it," she added.

Based on visits to 1,200 colleges in more than 30 states, Dr. Byron McClenney, project director for Achieving the Dream and a senior lecturer and fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, pointed to a number of key practices that support the completion agenda, including:
  • Leaders that are engaged and pay continuous attention to progress on student success issues.
  • A shared an enacted vision around a student success agenda
  • Planning and budgeting that are aligned with the agenda
  • A culture of evidence
  • Broad consensus among students, faculty, staff and the community
  • Having the student success agenda impact policy, practices, and procedures. "Once you get serious, it starts to permeate how you make decisions," he said.
  • Integration of other initiatives, including accreditation
  • Focused professional development aligned with student completion objectives.
"None of these things come easily," McClenney said, pointing to ending late registration, embedding basic skills in career programs, study groups, and student success courses as potentially promising approaches that can come out of such practices.

As part of its Complete to Compete initiative, The National Governors Association is developing its own metrics to help state leaders track the performance of their higher education institutions. "You can't have a substantive policy conversation until and unless you have a clear picture of how something's performing," said Travis Reindl, program director, who echoed others' insistence that disaggregating data is critical. "To have goals that are lasting and powerful, you have to know if you're moving towards them."

NGA's proposed metrics are divided between measurements of student progress -- including remediation, entry, success in first year math and English courses, and credit accumulation -- and outcomes, including numbers of degrees, graduation rates, and measurements of the time and credits required to attain a degree.

While acknowledging that community colleges are facing unprecedented financial pressure as enrollments rise and funding falls, speakers agreed that these challenges would not impede the focus on completion. "There's no evidence that connects resources to results," McClenney said, "It's not how much money we have, but how we spend the money we have."

As proof, McClenney pointed to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's 100,000 Lives Campaign, which sought to reduce the number of preventable deaths in U.S. hospitals. By examining data and asking tough questions, the healthcare community was able to meet its own ambitious goal.

"They did it," McClenney said. "All of you can figure out your share of this goal... the 15 or 16 million college graduates our nation needs for our communities to thrive."
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Department of Labor Releases FAQ on the Community College Program

The Department of Labor recently released a fact sheet and a FAQ on the Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) program outlining key issues for colleges interested in applying for funds. The CCCTG program is funded at $2 billion over four years ($500 million each year) and will support efforts that provide education and training services. The grant solicitation is expected to be released this fall. Click here to read the fact sheet and FAQ.

Additionally, the new fall 2010 issue of ACCT’s Trustee Quarterly magazine features an informative Q&A with Department of Education Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter and Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Jane Oates, who offered insights regarding the CCCTG program. Click here for the Q&A.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

White House Summit on Communty Colleges Ends With a Consensus on Challenges

By the end of Tuesday’s White House Summit on Community Colleges, two messages had crystallized. First, so-called “non-traditional students” -- older learners juggling jobs and families -- should now simply be considered “21st century students.” “They are the new normal,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told attendees. Second, a key strategy for the government and grantmakers alike will be finding ways to help community colleges share best practices as they retool to meet President Barack Obama’s call for 5 million more graduates from their institutions by 2020.

“What we have to do is take to scale what’s working,” Duncan told attendees during the summit’s closing session.

Along with the high-profile initiatives from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Aspen Institute, and the federal government announced earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis reminded attendees that the application process is beginning for the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant Program, signed into law earlier this year as part of the health care reconciliation bill.

“It’s about capacity building... about developing programs and curricula that last longer than the funding does,” Solis said of the program.

During the final session, summit attendees shared key challenges and potential solutions explored in six breakout groups, including:

Industry partnerships. Strong solutions include those with a sense of reciprocity between colleges and their industry partners, as well as financial and other support from local governments; those with flexible delivery options, including on-site, online, and non-traditional course hours; and those with a clear and accessible pathway for individuals. Challenges include remediation; funding for capacity building in skills training; differences in state funding models that make it difficult to replicate successful partnerships; and the need to award credit based on training workers have already received, including apprenticeships.

Military and veterans programs. Attendees acknowledged the role community colleges play in the education of veterans and the value of on-campus supports, such as veterans groups. Challenges include the need to ensure a transition and support system for veterans leaving active duty, and ways to share successful practices put into place at community colleges, including veteran-to-veteran support, priority placement, military spouse career advancement programs, and ways to maximize GI Bill benefits.

Completion. Among the challenges in this critical area are the need to communicate the value of a credential or diploma to students; professional development to help community college instructors support students; developmental education programs; integrating technology; and identifying solutions that work among disparate community college campuses.

Financial aid. Challenges include the need to simplify the financial aid process, especially for students who may be the first in their family to attend college; rethinking disincentives for working students receiving Pell Grants; considering ways to consolidate different forms of financial aid; and supporting financial aid officers who have been strained by budget cuts and the increasing numbers of students who need their help.

Baccalaureate pathways. Challenges include the need for support and counseling for students considering transferring to a four-year institution; inconsistency in credit hours and course numbering systems; and creating articulation programs for career and technical education programs.

21st century community colleges. Key challenges include leveraging technology to provide new course offerings, track alumni and the transfer of credits, and support faculty; the need to examine the role both full-time and adjunct professors play as they take on new support roles; and ways to leverage private sector partnerships to emphasize the importance of learning within contexts that are meaningful to "21st century students."

The U.S. Education Department will host another “virtual community college summit” in 2011. But Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden concluded the present-day White House summit by urging attendees to take the same critical look at key priorities with key partners in their own communities. “Go back to your businesses and your schools, and start this conversation again,” she said. To that end, the White House prepared a special toolkit for community college leaders, which includes information for colleges interested in holding their own local community college summit on their campuses. It can be downloaded here.

“This is our moment in history to make a difference, and let’s grab that opportunity,” Biden said.

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Obama Kicks off White House Summit on Community Colleges, Introduces Building Skills for America's Future, Completion by Design Programs

Saying that community colleges “provide the gateway for millions to a better life,” President Barack Obama kicked off Tuesday’s White House Summit on Community Colleges by painting support for community colleges in economic terms, as other speakers described two new high-profile initiatives intended to help community colleges with completion and workforce development.

“We are in a global competition to lead in the growth industries of the 21st century. That depends on a highly skilled workforce,” Obama told an assembled group of leaders from community colleges, foundations, and a broad array of government agencies during an opening session at the White House.

Pointing to the American Graduation Initiative, which calls on community colleges to provide an additional 5 million students with certificates or degrees in the next decade, Obama said that additional federal support and financial aid for students “will help ensure that we lead the global economy, but only if we maintain the support.”

Obama announced the new Building Skills for America’s Future initiative, an effort to bolster community college industry partnerships and workforce development initiatives in partnership with the Aspen Institute.

“The private sector is eager and willing to help,” said Penny Pritzker, chairman/CEO of Pritzker Realty Group and a member of Obama’s economic advisory board. Already Accenture, Gap Inc., McDonald’s, PG&E and United Technologies have pledged to support the program, which will ensure that every state has at least one “high impact” partnership between a community college and industry. “We hope to spark a movement nationwide to spark the nation’s workforce,” Pritzker told attendees.

Melinda Gates introduced Completion by Design, a $35 million grant program announced Monday by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “redesign every aspect of the college experience,” with an eye to sharing innovative practices, such as streamlining enrollment, speeding up remediation programs or simplifying the transfer process.

“The next step for community colleges is to put all the pieces of the puzzle together,” Gates said, stressing the potential of technology to create new hybrid learning opportunities. “We’re committed to community colleges as they do the hard work of changing so they can... disseminate the best ideas of what’s actually working.”

“Let’s get busy,” Obama said at the conclusion of his remarks. Breakout sessions currently underway are focusing on six areas: industry partnerships, college completion, pathways to baccalaureate degrees, financial aid, military and veterans programs, and the community college of the future.

The summit’s closing session will be broadcast live at 3pm at The summit is being led by Dr. Jill Biden, who told attendees the newfound attention would forever change the community college movement.

"For years, I have said that community colleges are one of America's best-kept secrets," Biden said. "With the President shining a light on us, that secret is out."

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