By Lenaire Ahlum
The national organization of the Rural Community College Alliance (RCCA) met with officials from the White House, Department of Education and the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington DC on Wednesday, February 11. Among the 50+ community college leaders from around the country were Lenaire Ahlum and Mary Blankenship of the Susquehanna Valley Community Education Project.
White House Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs, Doug O’Brien, emphasized the unique role community colleges have in elevating children and parents out of poverty in non-metro regions.
James Kvaal, Deputy Director White House Domestic Policy Council, insisted that America’s community colleges are the vehicle for middle class growth and they maintain a “breadth of support across the ideological spectrum”. He compared the free tuition community college for responsible students, to that of the free and public high school movement in the past century. Community college leaders inquired as to how the country would pay for the additional two years of higher education. Kvaal responded through tax reform and the expansion of tax credits and improvements such as closing the trust fund loophole. He urged leaders to start a national dialogue on the economic impact of community colleges. Kvaal indicated that philanthropic giving to community colleges for 2014 was $300 Million which demonstrates their importance for investment and their better value proposition.
Mr. Byron Smith, Deputy Director, White House National Economic Council, stressed the urgency for a competent Information Technology workforce and explained that 40,000 overseas IT jobs being filled in India will be transitioning to the United States.
Leaders of the Rural Community College Alliance met with Department of Education, Under Secretary, Ted Mitchell, to discuss the issues surrounding community colleges granting credit for work experience, prior knowledge, and skills so that students can be job ready or ready for transfer into baccalaureate programs. The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges proactively announced on February 2, 2015, a statewide adoption by the 14 community colleges of a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), called College Credit FastTrack. This initiative was spearheaded by Montgomery County Community College and has a dedicated website for the launch at ccfasttrack.org.
USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsak, met with community college leaders and imparted a twofold message. First, he remarked that the diversity among community college leaders was refreshing and reflective of the population demographics within America. Second, he urged the community college leaders to generate and build coalition partnerships with business and industry that will guide the direction for economic growth in conservation industries such as bio economy and alternative fuels, and outdoor recreation. He emphasized that workers need training in precision agriculture and that trade export of US agriculture products and services will be in demand by international middle class consumers during the next 15 years. He projected that the current market of Asian middle class consumers now totaling 575 million will grow to 2.2 billion by 2030.
To find out more about the visit to Washington DC visit: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/02/12/obama-community-college-proposal-shift-conversation-capitol-hill-college-leaders-say
To find out more about the Rural Community College Alliance visit: http://www.ruralccalliance.org/