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Secretary Duncan and Secretary Solis Launch First Community College Summit in Philadelphia

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis gave remarks this morning at the first of four Community College Summits. The Community College of Philadelphia hosted 150 invited guests including regional community college presidents, students, and leaders from businesses, foundations, and the government. The focus of the first summit was “Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges and the Workforce.”

Secretary Duncan once again lauded community colleges, calling them the “unrecognized gem” of institutions within the education continuum. He emphasized that both 2-year and 4-year institutions cannot just focus on access, but they must also be adamant about increasing completion rates to meet President Obama’s goal for 2020 – to have the highest proportion of college graduates worldwide.

Secretary Solis noted that the role of community colleges in training healthcare workers is critical, as healthcare will continue to be one of the fastest growing sectors in need of skilled workers. Solis also pushed for stronger partnerships between community colleges and businesses to meet regional challenges.

The panelists, most from foundations or businesses, also discussed partnerships between community colleges and businesses or foundations. They focused on using leverage to stretch funding and on the necessity of quality data to back community colleges’ progress. Particular attention was paid to the use of competency-based education and contextual learning opportunities to accelerate adult learner degree attainment.

Though she did not attend the summit, Dr. Jill Biden wrote an op-ed on the topic in this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

The next Community College Summit will take place on March 9th at the Lone Star Community College District in Houston, Texas.

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