Obama: Community colleges central to economic recovery

Obama spoke to more than 100 community college officials at the White House. (Courtesy White House photographer Pete Souza)
Obama spoke to more than 100 community college officials at the White House. (Courtesy White House photographer Pete Souza)

During an Oct. 5 White House summit, Obama administration officials and community college leaders discussed ways to position two-year colleges as training hubs that could be instrumental in the country’s economic recovery. And technology, they said, would be a centerpiece to enrolling more students and boosting completion rates.

The gathering of more than 100 community college decision makers from across the country was the White House’s first-ever Summit on Community Colleges, where top federal officials lauded two-year colleges as a bridge to jobs and four-year universities, and a way to lead the world in college graduates by 2020.

The Community College Summit was held a day after President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board announced its Skills for America’s Future program, which aims to connect businesses with community colleges to help better match workers with jobs during the economic recovery and beyond.

The summit was led by Second Lady Jill Biden, an educator for almost 30 years. Education Secretary Arne Duncan emphasized that fiscal support and sustained attention on two-year schools would be important to the administration’s efforts to improve the slumping economy.

“We’ve never had this kind of attention at the White House nationally on community colleges,” Duncan said. “I think folks feel the sense that there’s never been a greater spotlight, never been a greater sense of urgency and opportunity. … We cannot educate our way to a better economy without community colleges.”

Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said providing reliable web platforms for students to enroll in community colleges, communicate with instructors, and understand what classes they need and if they’ll transfer to a four-year institution would be key for two-year schools as Americans enroll at record numbers.

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Denny Carter

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