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White House Community College Summit: Three New Initiatives Will Help Community Colleges Better Educate Workers for High-Demand Jobs

Oct 06, 2010

By Marcie Foster

To meet the goal of a more educated workforce, President Obama and Jill Biden on Tuesday, October 5, challenged community college, business, government and workforce leaders to focus on the needs of nontraditional students who often have children and other family responsibilities.

The president and second lady made the challenge at the first White House Community College Summit.  During the summit, participants met in breakout sessions to discuss innovative strategies and best practices that help these students enroll in school and get them through their degree or certificate program and into high-demand jobs.

The summit also brought with it the announcement of three new initiatives that, together, will help the nation reach President Obama's goal of generating an additional 5 million community college degrees and certificates by 2020.

During the opening session, Melinda Gates, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a new $35 million initiative, Completion by Design.  The initiative will provide grants to groups of community colleges in nine states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington) that commit to addressing the needs of low-income students by focusing on innovative financial aid counseling, course scheduling, advising, and identifying new uses of technology that help assess students' learning needs and help students complete degree and certificate programs.

The announcement from the Gates Foundation comes on the tails of President Obama's announcement of a new initiative, Skills for America's Future, which will help foster partnerships among government, the private sector, community colleges, and labor unions and improve skills and employment outcomes for students.  In response to the increasing  concern that training isn't producing workers with the right set of skills, the partnership aims to align community college curriculum with the demands of local employers on a large scale. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that each state has at least one robust partnership between industry and community colleges.  So far, five major employers have signed on to participate in the initiative: Gap, Inc., Accenture, PG &E, McDonald's, and United Technologies Corporation.

The Aspen Institute will also contribute to this new focus on community colleges by administering a $1 million prize, funded by a group of leading national foundations, which will be awarded to community colleges with outstanding academic and workforce outcomes.  The prize will be awarded annually beginning in fall 2011.

Research shows that the strategies supported by these new initiatives, wraparound supports, innovative course structure and delivery, and employer partnerships, are key ingredients to ensuring that community college students are able to access and succeed in education and training programs. CLASP is supportive of the significant commitments to low-income adults and youth that is demonstrated by these three initiatives.

As part of the Community College Summit planning, the White House developed an online discussion forum to allow researchers, policymakers, students, and others to contribute ideas to the summit.  View Five Strategies to Help Low-Income Adults and Youth Attain Community College Credentials, CLASP's contributions to the discussion.


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