Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 ACCT Congress: Education Department Official Details Progress, Partnerships

U.S. Education Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges Frank Chong reassured 2011 ACCT Leadership Congress attendees that community colleges remain “a bipartisan issue” for lawmakers and highlighted the administration’s work in helping raise their profile.

“It’s rarely that the President speaks that he doesn’t mention community colleges,” said Chong, former president of Laney College in California. “That’s intentional. He gets the role they play in the economic vitality of our communities.”

Chong noted that the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges, held last fall, helped kickstart important collaborations such as the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which announced its 10 finalist institutions in September; Skills for America’s Future, an industry collaboration aimed at addressing skills gaps in high-demand areas such as healthcare, IT, and advanced manufacturing; and a series of regional summits that brought together community college leaders, local employers, and philanthropic organizations.

"Oftentimes... a summit is a photo op,” Chong said. “I’m proud to say we followed up on the promises we put forward.”

Chong also stressed the importance of continuing to advocate for the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) program, which will provide $500 million annually in grants to colleges and consortia over four years.

“It’s one of the few new [sources] of funding for community colleges,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted.”

Chong reiterated the administration’s commitment to access in the form of continuing support for Pell Grants, and said the Education Department is planning to find new ways to help community colleges share best practices online. Reducing time to degree through more seamless transitions, prior learning assessment, and improved apprenticeship programs are among other priorities, he said.

“It’s a very challenging time in Washington, D.C.,” said Chong. “We’re going to have to pivot... and push the envelope on how important community colleges are.”

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