White House Hosts Community Colleges

August 13, 2014

The Obama administration gathered several dozen community colleges, nonprofit organizations, and other groups focused on college readiness in Washington on Tuesday to discuss best practices in college remediation.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz, and other administration officials hosted the meeting in the Indian Treaty Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The event, which was not open to the press, was a follow-up to the January White House summit on low-income students. Several colleges and organizations provided updates on the pledges they made at that summit to expand access to higher education. The goal of the meeting was to “discuss efforts to strengthen developmental education and explore effective strategies to improve success for students in need of developmental education,” a White House official said in an email. 

Administration officials also announced at the conference that they had secured more than a dozen new commitments from community colleges and other organizations that focus on remedial education, according to several attendees. 

James Sawyer, provost and senior vice president at Macomb Community College, said his institution was one of those making a new pledge. The college plans to make mandatory a college skills course for all students enrolled in developmental education. He said that such support had boosted students’ persistence rates by 23 percentage points in a smaller experiment at the college.

In addition, the event served as the formal launch of the recently-announced Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness, which is funded by a nearly $10 million Education Department grant and will sponsor research of remedial education.

Karen A. Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College, who attended the meeting, said that she appreciated the administration’s focus on boosting the research and evidence base for remedial education. “The community college role in supporting under-resourced and underserved students was downplayed in the January summit and we weren’t as well-represented as some of the other sectors,” she said. “By hosting this today, the administration recognized specifically the value of the community college sector. This was a really great way to affirm the value of community colleges.”

Among the other institutions and organizations represented at the meeting were: Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University; Patrick Henry Community College; Lee College; Long Beach City College; Harper College; Achieving the Dream; Bunker Hill Community College; College of Ouachitas; Davidson County Community College; Eastern Gateway Community College; Edmonds Community College; Gaston College; Los Rios Community College District; Lower Columbia College; Passaic County Community College; Umpqua Community College; and West Hills Community College; MDRC; Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation; Borough of Manhattan Community College; and Khan Academy. 



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