Friday, February 17, 2012

Administration Officials Stress Community College Commitment, Call for Veteran Support at 2012 National Legislative Summit

Two Obama Administration officials stressed the President's continuing commitment to the community college sector and urged its leaders to support returning veterans during the 2012 Community College National Legislative Summit.

Roberto J. Rodriguez, special assistant to the President for education on the White House Domestic Policy Counsel, called community colleges "the largest and most nimble sector of higher education." Reiterating the Obama Administration's goal of 5 million more community college graduates by 2020, Rodriguez described the new $8 billion Community College to Career Fund proposed in the President's FY 2013 budget as a "doubling down on the [President's] commitment" to support colleges in their efforts.

"Securing this investment would give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers to ensure that employers have the workforce they need and that workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials that build strong careers," he said.

Rodriguez also pointed to the $5 billion the administration has proposed for community college facility modernization, as well as past collaborative efforts such as the 2010 White House Summit on Community Colleges, which he said had spawned such programs as the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and Skills for America's Future.

"We need a new commitment to increase college success," he said. "We believe that community colleges can be the catalyst for that change."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told NLS attendees that veterans "have what it takes to succeed not just in the military, but in school and in whatever endeavor they choose." The retired Army general urged community college leaders to support the 950,000 veterans and family members currently enrolled in higher education programs, more than one-third of whom attend community colleges.

"I want to ask more of you," he said, urging community college leaders to provide meeting spaces and other services that would allow veterans to support each other as they adjust to their post-military lives. "Embrace our veteran students, and encourage them to organize themselves... Have them seize this collective responsibility of graduating each other."

Shinseki looked back to the post-World War II GI Bill, which "provided the leadership that catapulted our nation to the world's largest economy."

"Lightning is about to strike a second time," he said.

For a transcript of Shinseki's speech, click here.

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