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The Presidential Treatment
The Obama Administration makes big advances, faces tough challenges, in higher education policy

  In This Issue
 

Feature Articles
The Presidential Treatment
The Obama Administration makes big advances, faces tough challenges, in higher education policy

The Virginia Plan
State’s community colleges confront the need to do more with less

Indiana’s “Eighth University” Western Governors University brings its “competency-based” approach to the Hoosier state
Sidebar: Allison Barber
WGU Indiana’s chancellor leads a public relations campaign

News from the Center
New Center Associates

Center Reports

Editorial
By Governor James B. Hunt Jr. and Patrick M. Callan

Other Voices
Not Ready for College
States must have a systemic, comprehensive agenda for college preparation
By David Spence

Making the Middle Class
Don’t let the recession fool you—postsecondary education is more valuable than ever
By Anthony P. Carnevale and Michelle Melton

Baby Bonds
Government sponsored child savings accounts could help families to pay for college
By David L. Kirp


POLICY REPORT from The Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability; The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems; and The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
(view full report)
(download PDF of full report)


Page Viewer
December 2010

By Jon Marcus

 
President Barack Obama prepares to deliver remarks to community college leaders at the recent White House Summit on Community Colleges.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C.

YOU’LL HAVE TO forgive them if the community college students, faculty and presidents looked star struck, squinting in the glare of the bright lights of the television news crews as Marine guards crisply showed them to their seats.

Dressed in their best, these 122 hand-picked representatives of higher education’s most maligned, least influential sector were, after all, being ushered to the White House East Room, guests of the wife of the vice president of the United States, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, three cabinet secretaries, one congressman, the billionaire who co-chairs the nation’s wealthiest foundation—and the leader of the free world.

As they waited restively beneath the crystal chandeliers, surrounded by gold draperies, and scrutinized by Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington, they knew this was the most attention given to their colleges by any president since 1947, when a commission appointed by Harry Truman recommended so big an expansion that there would be a community college campus within easy driving distance of every Ame­rican.

Barack Obama himself soon was telling them, after he bounded from a side door to the presidential podium, that they were “the unsung heroes of America’s education system.”
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The Virginia Plan
State’s community colleges confront the need to do more with less

 
   
By Robert A. Jones

 
“Our problems are like waves crashing on top of each other. Big tsunamis,” says Glen DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s community college system.
 
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

THE FALL TERM had just begun, and the chancellor of Virginia’s community college system, Glenn DuBois, was whizzing toward the Blue Ridge Mountains in the state airplane. DuBois and several aides were headed for two of the system’s upland campuses to deliver a message that was both expected and dreaded: Systemic failure was coming for the 40-year-old collection of colleges unless major changes were made.

Strapped into his seat, DuBois leaned toward a visitor and spoke almost conspiratorially about the day’s upcoming events. He knew, he said, that some faculty members were skeptical of his reform plans. Many previous reform plans had come and gone. But this time was different, and he was giving himself approximately one hour with the faculty at each college to turn them from skeptics to supporters.

“Our problems are like waves crashing on top of each other. Big tsunamis,” DuBois said. “If we don’t acknowledge the size of this thing, we are going down. We can’t nibble at the edges. Today is my chance to make the case, to give them the whole loaf, to show them what’s at stake.”

The air of crisis in Virginia has built steadily over the last three years, as it has at most community colleges across the nation. Enrollment has exploded on most campuses, forcing some systems to turn away students for the first time in history. Meanwhile, state governments have drained budgets like vampires in the night.

This double bind has occurred, ironically, just as community colleges have begun to receive widespread recognition of their importance in the higher education pantheon.
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