Bidens praise job training at NY college

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, a community college professor, visited the applied technologies center at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York to promote job training programs.

Jill Biden’s pay amazes adjuncts

Jill Biden’s $82,o00 a year salary as a community college professor — revealed by a look at her husband’s tax returns — has amazed adjuncts, who thought she was one of their own, reports Inside Higher Ed.  Though Biden started as an adjunct, she’s now an associate professor teaching three developmental English classes at Northern Virginia Community College. The college says she works full-time, keeps office hours and attends faculty meetings. With 15 years experience teaching at Delaware Technical Community College, she earns an above-average salary.

Jack Longmate, a member of the New Faculty Majority and an adjunct faculty member who teaches at Olympic College, said he wished Biden would use her visibility to highlight the “plight of adjuncts.”

. . . “there is a dysfunctional two-tiered system in place in our colleges and it impacts the quality of instruction. I wish she brought attention to that. ”

Despite her full-time teaching job, Biden has been visiting community colleges with U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to promote partnerships between industries and community colleges. Yesterday, she spoke at Reading Area Community College in Pennsylvania with Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.

In January, Vice President Joe Biden raised academic hackles by blaming rising college costs of faculty pay. “Salaries for college professors have escalated significantly,” he said in Pennsylvania.  “They should be good, but they have escalated significantly.” Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience: His wife pay nearly doubled when she went from teaching two courses per semester as an adjunct to three as an assistant professor.

On the road for job training

Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife and a community college instructor, is touring community colleges in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina with U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to promote the administration’s proposed $8 billion Community College to Career Fund, which would encourage colleges to partner with local employers to create workforce training programs.

I’ve added my comment to the National Journal discussion of the workforce training proposal, which tries to super-size an old idea, college-employer partnerships.

Symposium: Collaborate for completion

To ensure high school graduates are ready for college, community college leaders must collaborate with high school educators on common standards, said panelists at a “virtual symposium” at Maryland’s Montgomery College.

Jill Biden, a community college instructor and the vice president’s wife, led the session, which was designed as a cap to the four regional community college summits. Education Secretary Arne Duncan,  Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter and Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard attended.

In addition to working with high schools on college readiness, the symposium discussed  improving the effectiveness of remedial classes.

As many as 60 percent of community college students need remedial reading, writing or math class, according to an Education Department report released to coincide with the symposium.

Developmental classes “may not improve students’ persistence or completion rates and, in some cases, may actually hinder their progress toward educational goals,” the report warned.

Remediation should target each student’s learning needs so they can move quickly to college-level classes, said Shanna Smith Jaggars, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center. When students have to take an entire class to learn a few concepts, they become discouraged and drop out.

Other key issues that emerged from the regional summits are designing bridge programs for adult students with skill gaps and partnering with employers to align curriculum and instruction with workplace realities.

What Washington wants from CCs: Job training

The National Community College Legislative Summit concluded Wednesday with a speech by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, the House majority whip and a former community college board member. “The mindset on both sides of the aisle is knowing that the crunch is about to hit us,” said McCarthy. The budget debate in the next few weeks will show “whether we can work together and put politics aside to put the country first.”

Beyond Capitol Hill, the need to put Americans back to work will play an even bigger factor in driving progress, McCarthy predicted. “Commonality is going to happen around jobs,” he said. “If we don’t get America working again, we’re never going to get anywhere… and if we don’t find a solution, no one’s going to be reelected. So I believe we have the opportunity to do something.”

Earlier, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, also a former community college trustee, called for collaborating with business on job training.

“You must be able to to provide training that is transferable to a job,” she said. “The criteria isn’t a certificate anymore, but to cultivate your relationships with businesses to [ensure] a smooth transition. Most of you in this room have those relationships. Now it’s about moving a little further and thinking about the opportunities in 15 or 20 years.”

Solis also touted the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant Program, but warned colleges must show strong results. ”I can tell you we have to make the case that your programs work and can provide the best training for employers.”

Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife and a community college instructor, said the administration is following up on the Community College Summit.

What they said at the summit

“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.

At the summit: Job training

The opening and closing sessions of the White House Summit on Community Colleges will be streamed live at 12:15 pm EDT and 3 pm EDT. President Obama will speak at the opening.

On the ideas site, nearly all the the top-rated ideas call for paying more to adjunct instructors and supporting college libraries. But it looks like job training will be the main focus.

Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife and the host of the summit, was invited to yesterday’s meeting of the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. President Obama announced a public-private partnership, Skills for America’s Future, to align employers’ needs with community college curriculum.

Such partnerships aren’t new, but this will be a national campaign run by the non-profit Aspen Institute. A government task force with Department of Labor and Department of Commerce representatives will collaborate, but no government funding is planned. In fact, the private partners — Gap Inc., Accenture, United Technologies, P.G.& E. and McDonald’s are the first to sign up — will offer only guidance and scholarships but no cash.

Penny Pritzker, a Chicago business executive and Obama fund-raiser, will provide $250,000 in start-up money from the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation; she’s soliciting money from other foundations.

CC summit will miss the point

Next week’s White House summit on community colleges is “designed to miss the point,” writes Community College Dean. To start with, “not a single community college professor or on-campus administrator” is invited. But the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CEO of Accenture will be there.

The summit will be hosted by Jill Biden, the vice-president’s wife, who teaches at a community college. But she’s the only instructor on the guest list? That’s crazy. (College presidents and students have been invited.)

Workforce development and increasing graduation rates are the goals, according to the website. “Ask the wrong questions, and you’ll get the wrong answers,” writes the dean.

Graduation data count first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students, a group that’s a small minority on  community college campuses.

If we wanted to ‘game’ our graduation rates, we could just put in place policies that favor the first-time, full-time student over the returning student or the part-time student. That’s easy enough — sometimes it happens without our even trying — but it’s contrary to the mission of the college.

Community colleges do lots of workforce development, but much of it isn’t counted in statistics like graduation rates, the dean argues.

When a large local employer contracts with the continuing-ed arm of my cc to run some ESL classes for its entry-level employees who mostly speak Spanish, that’s a version of workforce development, but it’s completely disconnected from our IPEDS numbers, and it won’t show up in certificate completions.

What community colleges really need, the dean writes, is “a sustainable funding model.”

Part of that implies a direct, long-term, sustained infusion of operating cash. Money won’t generate success by itself, but you won’t generate success without it. When community colleges are struggling just to keep doing what they’re already doing, asking them to do even more with even less is just silly. If you want real improvement, you need to pay for it. Whether that means direct federal infusions, or bloc grants (with strings) to states, or dramatically higher Pell grants, is open to debate. The mechanism could be any number of things. But unless the bottom line is increased dramatically and permanently, we’re blowing smoke.

Colleges need to stop measuring academic achievement by the credit hour, the dean writes. Federal leadership could be a big help.

The feds could look at the unintended consequences of disability law, the repeal of mandatory retirement ages and the judicial assertion of a property right inherent in tenure, which “add tremendously to overhead and don’t result in better student outcomes.”

Finally, improving the K-12 system so graduates are literate and numerate would be a huge help to community colleges, the dean writes.

But that’s not going to happen.

Update: President Obama will attend the summit, the White House has announced.  Both K-12 teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, were invited to send representatives. Jill Biden’s office says community college faculty have been invited, but provided no names. Adjuncts are demanding a voice, reports Chronicle of Higher Education.

Maria Maisto, who teaches English at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio, leads the New Faculty Majority, a national advocacy group for adjuncts.

. . . she is baffled over why the faculty is not playing a more-significant role in the discussion. She is especially troubled by the fact that Ms. Biden, an effusive supporter of community colleges, would leave the adjunct faculty’s voice out of the summit.

Adjuncts now do most of the teaching at community colleges.

Is summit a consolation prize?

The Oct. 5 Community College Summit is “viewed by many political observers as a consolation prize,” reports Inside Higher Ed.  President Obama proposed the $12-billion American Graduation Initiative, then let it be stripped from the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. When the bill was signed, the president promised to hold the summit, which will be chaired by Jill Biden, the vice-president’s wife, a community college instructor.

It is not clear who will be invited to the event, whether it will actually take place at the White House, or if either the president or vice president is scheduled to make an appearance.

The summit apparently will “center on President Obama’s goal for the country to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 and how community colleges can help achieve this target,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

“Given that there’s not going to be additional money and there probably won’t be new legislation, the conversation shifts to what the Department of Education can do to meet the president’s graduation goals,” said Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University Teachers College. “I think that’s a perfectly useful discussion to have, and it makes these issues more prominent. But, without additional resources or new resources, it’s not clear to me what can be done.”

On College Guide, Daniel Luzer suggests the summit needs a more substantive agenda than reminding people that community colleges are “important.”

For example, how are community colleges going to meet expanding enrollment with limited funding? What’s the best way to train laid-off and would-be workers for jobs? Should college resources be reserved for students who are at or near the college level, sending ultra-remedial students to adult education? Does it matter if college teachers are all adjuncts?

Community college summit set for Oct. 5

The White House Summit on Community Colleges on Oct. 5 will be chaired by Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, who is a community college English instructor.

The White House has set up an online discussion site on community college issues and is soliciting videos via YouTube or this webform on the question:  How has the community college experience affected your life?