There are many reasons why students decide to attend community colleges before attending a four year university. On October 5, 2010 Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, chaired the first White House Summit on Community Colleges. President Obama asked Dr. Biden to highlight the important role community colleges play in higher education.
“Today, community colleges are the largest, fastest-growing, most affordable segment of America’s higher education system. For generations, these schools have been an option for many students who didn’t have other options: recent immigrants, working adults, or students who could not afford or were not quite ready for a four-year institution,” explained Dr. Biden.
The purpose of this event was to bring together community colleges, business and philanthropy, state and federal policy leaders, and students. This summit brought together more than 150 leaders in business and education.
Every year, community colleges across the state enroll more than 8 million students and make up the largest part of America’s higher education system. Dr. Biden has been a community college professor for more than 17 years and knows the critical role community colleges play for students who desire to achieve skills needed in the 21st century.
“But as I work hard every day to inspire students, it is ultimately they who inspire me. I’m inspired by students who overcome significant odds just to show up, workers who have returned to school to improve their job prospects, mothers who juggle jobs and childcare while preparing for a new career, and students who spend two years at a community college before transferring to a four-year school,” said Dr. Biden.
Melinda Gates from the Gates Foundation also spoke at this historic event and announced that the Foundation is introducing a new five-year initiative to raise community college graduation rates. According to Melinda Gates, this is an important initiative for more than half of community college students fail to pursue a two-year degree or transfer to a four-year university.
Last year, President Obama launched the American Graduation Initiative to make pursuing a college education more affordable and to invest in community colleges. President Obama challenged American citizens to graduate 5 million community college students by 2020. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to make higher education more available and affordable.
“Comunity colleges aren’t just the key to the future of their students. They’re also one of the keys to the future of our country. We are in a global competition to lead in the growth industries of the 21st century. And that leadership depends on a well-educated, highly skilled workforce,” said President Obama.
Obama then compared America’s education cuts to those in India and China, countries that are not cutting education at all, “Think about it. China isn’t slashing education by 20 percent right now. India is not slashing education by 20 percent. We are in a fight for the future -– a fight that depends on education. And cutting aid for 8 million students, or scaling back our community — our commitment to community colleges, that’s like unilaterally disarming our troops right as they head to the front lines.”
This summit did not create new policiesbut surely did promote the importance of community colleges.
“Community colleges are at the center of Americans’ effort to educate our way to a better economy” said Dr. Biden,” I know the power of community colleges to change lives.”
In the words of President Obama, “Let’s get busy.”