WASHINGTON — A first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges will take place next month as President Barack Obama tries to get more Americans motivated to learn new job skills.
The Oct. 5 summit, announced Wednesday, will pull together business leaders, philanthropists, government leaders, policymakers, college officials and students from around the country. Obama will use it in part to rally political support behind his proposal to increase federal spending for community colleges by $12 billion over 10 years.
Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a longtime community college instructor, will lead the summit. Biden holds a Ph.D. in education from the University of Delaware and teaches English at Northern Virginia Community College.
Biden said in a news release that community colleges “are a key part of our economic vision for the future,” and that she's seen the value of such education firsthand.
The aims of the summit include reducing status stigmas about community colleges as opposed to four-year universities, portraying community colleges as tools to keep the U.S. competitive globally and highlighting the stories of high-profile alumni with community college backgrounds.
Obama is looking to community colleges as a lifeline to escape a battered economy amid signs that the nation's work force is insufficiently trained for the technological advances that are driving the global economy. His proposal to increase federal investments in community colleges is part of his effort to keep the U.S. competitive against China, India and other rising nations.
Administration officials say that community colleges are the biggest and fastest-growing form of higher education in the U.S. today, enrolling more than 8 million students a year. Obama wants to boost community college graduation by 5 million students by 2020 as part of his drive for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
To promote the summit, the White House produced a video that features high-profile figures who attended community colleges, including consulting giant Accenture's CEO, Bill Green, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer. Students, instructors and graduates are invited to share their own stories via the White House website.
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