WASHINGTON – Community colleges are the key to getting individuals back to work and improving America's educational reputation,White House leaders believe.
President Barack Obama and Jill Biden,the vice president's wife,will meet Tuesday with education leaders to discuss ways improve the community college system.
This system of two-year colleges is considered the best avenue for achieving Obama's goal of having the highest number of college graduates worldwide by 2020,Biden and other education leaders said on a conference call Monday. Five million people need to obtain degrees or certificates to meet that goal.
Biden,who holds a doctorate in education,teaches at Northern Virginia Community College in the Washington suburbs.
The first community college summit comes on the heels of an announcement Obama made Monday about a new program designed to help students at community colleges find jobs.
Skills for America's Future will link private companies with community colleges to create job-training programs and job placement services so students can make a smooth transition from college to the workforce. It will also expand class offerings and improve remedial educational programs. Some large companies,such as McDonald's and Gap Inc. have signed on.
Two more award programs to help increase graduation rates and job placement will be announced at the summit. The Gates Foundation is funding “Completion by Design,” a competitive grant program that will award $35 million to community colleges over five years.
The Aspen prize of $1 million will go each year to a college that has exemplary student completion rates and job placement services. The Aspen Institute and four other organizations are funding the prize.
Students at community colleges are less likely to finish their degrees than students at four-year universities. Martha Canter,under secretary of education,said 25 percent of students enrolled in community colleges are earning a certificate,degree or transferring to a university in pursuit of a bachelor's degree.
Jane Oates,assistant secretary of labor,said community colleges will be instrumental in getting people back to work. She encouraged unemployed individuals to look at business trends in their communities to see what jobs will become available.
“Jobs and training can be seen as a chicken and egg question,” Oates said. “People will be able to figure out how to get training so they can get ready to get a job before it is available.”