White House summit to focus on community colleges

By Denise Dick




Community colleges play an important role in President Barack Obama’s goal of making the United States the most-educated country by 2020.

The president will join Jill Biden, the “second lady,” wife of Vice President Joe Biden, today at the first White House Summit on Community Colleges.

“I’ve often said that community colleges are one of America’s best-kept secrets,” Biden said Monday in a conference call with reporters.

She has been a teacher for 29 years and an instructor at a community college for 17 years.

Community colleges help out-of-work Americans retrain for new jobs, she said.

“They play an important next step in the president’s goal of once again making this the most- competitive, best-educated work force in the world by 2020,” Biden said.

Melody Barnes, Domestic Policy Council director, said that the administration is involved in public-private partnerships that will strengthen community colleges.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is investing in an initiative, Completion by Design, that endeavors to improve community- college-graduation rates and “to make the [community college] experience more responsive to those attending,” Barnes said.

Another joint initiative from the Aspen Institute, the Lumina Foundation and the Joyce Foundation will award a $1 million annual prize, the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, for community colleges that are deemed “outstanding performers and rising stars,” Barnes said.

Martha Kanter, undersecretary of education, said the summit will examine ways to improve community- college success for students.

Jane Oates, assistant secretary of labor, said the summit is long overdue.

“Community colleges are the foundation of our public work-force system,” Oates said. “They are the access point for students of all ages.”

Community colleges also respond well to the needs of business and industry, preparing or retraining students with the skills needed in the work force, she said.

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