Nevada and the White House Summit on Community Colleges

Dr. Richards and Dr. Biden at the White House Summit on Community Colleges

Last week, under the leadership of President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, a historic White House Summit on Community Colleges convened in Washington D.C.   This was a very special experience for me and for the entire national system of colleges like CSN.

President Obama spoke of building American skills by strengthening community colleges.  He announced a national goal to increase the number of community college graduates by 5 million by 2020, and announced the “Skills for America’s Future” program to link community colleges and businesses to meet national workforce needs.

Just as easily he could have talked about building the skills of Nevadans by strengthening community colleges.  His challenge to increase the number of certificate and degree graduates in Nevada applies directly to CSN, and a “Skills for Nevada’s Future” initiative, adding more linkages of community colleges and businesses to meet Nevada workforce needs also applies.

Six breakout sessions led to specific discussions about national issues and community colleges.   Two are of special note and continue the conversation we began at convocation a little over a month ago:

1.       BREAKOUT SESSION: Increasing Community College Completion, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Considerable discussion of the developmental instruction process:

o   Remove stigma of remedial instruction

o   SPEED UP THE PROCESS! Only remediate what needs to be remediated

o   Help students to understand that it will get them somewhere

o   Use technology

o   Streamline institutional policies

o   Look at what works:

o   Use technology to teach and faculty to mentor


o   Plan for student success

o   In the end, we hope to avoid the need for developmental instruction, rather than improve it. (K-12 responsibilities… dual credit opportunities. Remediation in dual credit, tech prep?)

o   Sect’y Duncan: How do we hold ourselves accountable?

o   Secty Duncan: What does success look like?

o   More focus on work with business and industry, both training and assessment.

o   Consideration of what “college ready” means.

o   Reward colleges when students achieve research-based benchmarks, rather than for graduation. (Achieving the Dream connection.)

o   Momentum points mark achievement of certain course work, skill acquisition. Many cc students do not achieve “milestones” (graduation, for instance) Momentum points more accurately record cc 21st Century student achievement

o   A new name. Non-Trad is the norm. 21st Century Student is what we are dealing with. Distinct from the GI Bill era student.

o   Develop acceleration models.  Need more!

Identifying and advising more graduates. The discussion was:

o   Many students who might have earned an AA never register to graduate, varieties of reasons. We are already more successful than we think.

o   Transferring credits earned at a university BACK to the community colleges for associate credit. Give students an AA whether they like it or not!

o   Partnerships with community based non-profit training orgs (H.A.N.D.S., Goodwill, FISH) already providing training. Give credit for training at those places.

o   Discussion of WIB/WIA partnerships. Working on policies that work for cc’s and one stops.

o   Public/private, public/public, CC/CC. More collaboration at NSHE?

o   The risks:

o   “If we unabashedly award completion, we risk shutting out those we’re trying to help.”

o   Core Value Conflicts:

o   College autonomy vs. state and national policy

o   Cost based vs. value based thinking

o   Student choice vs. tight and limited programs

2.       BREAKOUT SESSION:  Community Colleges in the 21st Century, Secretary Janet Napolitano and Melinda Gates.  Melinda Gates conducted much of the discussion that reflected some of the priorities of the Gates Foundation.

Discussion focused on barriers and solutions:

o   Barriers were shared from a number of institutions and included,

o   Solutions and initiatives that are working included,

o   On the horizon:

CSN is ahead of the game on some of these items and will continue to be a major player in Nevada and national higher education. But I think it is important that we ramp up discussions on these issues.  I shared many examples of what CSN is already doing to meet state and national goals for more graduates.  As federal and foundation opportunities for grant funding emerge, CSN will be there and positioned to receive the resource supplements need to achieve our goals.

I was also pleased in this national forum to commend our faculty and staff for their dedicated service to student success and institutional innovation.  Thanks to all for making CSN such a vibrant example.


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