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AUSTIN, Texas — Martha Kanter carries a photo of a seventh grader she recently met. When the U.S. education under secretary needs encouragement to help her champion the daunting task of increasing the number of college graduates by 2020, she looks at the photo. It reminds Kanter that she wants to see that girl—and her mother—walk at commencement by 2020 to receive their college degrees.
Kanter used that anecdote to convey the college completion message to community college staff and faculty this week, emphasizing the need to focus on quality programs. Community colleges, in part, must work more closely with K-12 to develop or expand innovative programs to keep younger students in school, she said.
“We lose a student every 22 seconds out of high school,” Kanter said, noting dual enrollment is one program that shows promise in engaging students and conveying the value of a secondary and postsecondary education.
Kanter was joined by Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), during the opening session of the annual National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development conference.
A new vision
Some community college officials are concerned that financial belt-tightening in states and the federal government could hamper efforts to increase the number of college graduates, especially by the 2020 target. Kanter emphasized that the fiscal situation should not be a roadblock to progress, and that colleges need to use their current funds more wisely.
Photos from the 2011 NISOD conference opening session
Bumphus said that despite budget concerns, two-year college leaders appear optimistic and up to the challenge. The AACC president is in the midst of a national “listening tour" and to date has heard from more than 600 presidents, chancellors, administrators, faculty, staff and others about challenges at their colleges.
The listening tour is part of AACC’s 21st-Century Initiative. It will include a commission that will review comments from the tour and other sources to make recommendations to help two-year colleges better serve students and their communities. It is expected to release a draft report at the annual AACC conference in 2012.
The U.S. Education Department will release its own report based on its regional summits this spring. One topic that has threaded through all the summits is improving students’ transitions from community colleges to a four-year institutions, Kanter said. Better student orientation programs and streamlining articulation agreements among two- and four-year colleges were a focus, she said.
Developmental education is another key area that emerged from the summits, as was creating assessments that better gauge what students learn.
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