“Community colleges are not just the key to the future of their students. They are one of the keys to the future of our economy,” President Obama said at yesterday’s Community College Summit.
Colleges need to improve completion rates, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. He questioned whether community colleges were set up to deal with a “21st century student” who might be a 28-year-old mother with three children and a job, reports CollegeBound.
A group that discussed college completion said that the average of five years to complete an associate’s degree makes time an enemy for students. Students need to understand the value of actually securing community college credentials, and there needs to be more attention to improved professional development for community college instructors, in the group’s view. The group recommended that developmental education use more technology to tailor basic skills-training to the needs of the students and to integrate the training into academic courses.
Participants in the financial-aid session discussed the fees and child care expenses that many students face.
It was suggested that the federal government rethink the work disincentive in awarding Pell Grants, consider ways to consolidate loan forms, and provide other forms of financial aid such as transportation and family support services. Providing virtual financial aid services was one idea, with Connecticut named as an example of best practices in that area.
Undersecretary of Education Martha J. Kanter stressed giving students clear, consistent advice on how to transfer and earn bachelor’s degrees.
Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, called for “building better networks with alumni, leveraging technology, improving retention, and giving faculty incentives to innovate.”
Not discussed today: the link between the K-12 system and community colleges. Improving access, smoothing the transition, and ramping up college readiness in high school did not make onto the radar of the summit.
Next year, the community college summit will be “virtual,” said Jill Biden, a community college instructor and host of the summit.