“Community colleges are an unrecognized gem of education,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, after speaking Friday and Saturday at graduation exercises for Foothill College and DeAnza College in Silicon Valley. (I live a few minutes from Foothill.) From the San Jose Mercury News:
In individual speeches at each school, the Harvard-educated Duncan asked graduates to raise their hands if they were the first in their families to graduate from college, had come to the United States from another country, or had worked or raised a family while in school.
At both events, he faced a sea of hands. At De Anza on Saturday, he said: “The class of 2010 has had to climb steps and overcome obstacles that younger students at four-year residential colleges typically don’t face. Please give yourself a round of applause.”
Martha Kanter, the former Foothill-De Anza Community College District chancellor, is now undersecretary of education, which explains why Duncan made the trip. “We’re trying to shine a huge spotlight on community colleges,” said Duncan.
President Barack Obama has called for an additional 5 million community college graduates by 2020.
To help, the administration raised the maximum Pell grant award to $5,550 from $4,860 and is providing $17.3 billion for the program in the stimulus package. In addition, $2 billion has been committed to summer and youth employment, expansion of on-the-job training and “skill refresher” courses at community colleges, he said.
“As America gets back on its feet, community colleges will play a huge, huge role, whether health care jobs, green energy or tech jobs. As families get back to work, community colleges will help them get there,” Duncan said.
The Foothill-De Anza Community College District campuses serve more than 45,000 students a year. About 2,400 earned associate degrees on Friday and Saturday.