Jill Biden’s Conference on Community Colleges

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When President Obama signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 on March 23 he also asked longtime community college professor Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president, to convene a conference to discuss the future of community colleges. It’s a little unclear what the policymakers are supposed to chat about at the community college conference, however. According to an article by David Moltz in USA Today, Obama,

Asked the vice president’s wife to convene a national conference “to provide an opportunity for community college leaders, students, education experts, business leaders and others to share innovative ways to educate our way to a better economy.”

But community colleges have so many problems. Where should they start?

George Boggs of the American Association of Community Colleges believes the conference should essentially focus on how community colleges should get more federal money. (Community colleges were supposed to get about $12 billion, through the American Graduation Initiative; they ended up getting about $2 billion.)

Louis Soares of the Center for American Progress thinks the conference should focus on accountability; what do community colleges deliver vs. how much do they cost. However, according to the Moltz article:

David Bunting, executive director of the Iowa Association for Career and Technical Education, argued that summit participants “cannot separate education from workforce development from economic development” and that discussion about the transfer function of community colleges should not overshadow talk of their skills training programs.

Bunting’s got a point, with tens of thousands of unemployed people flocking to community colleges for skills training, maybe it’s time to look seriously at how well community colleges prepare people for good jobs.

Right now it looks like it’s still up to Mrs. Biden to decide. Her office has yet to even announce a date, or location, for the conference. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer