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Chancellor Participates in First White House Summit on Community Colleges

October 21, 2010

Zelema Harris and Jill Biden  
Chancellor Zelema Harris meets with Dr. Jill Biden
at the White House Summit on Community Colleges
Oct. 5 in Washington, D.C.

I was extremely honored to be one of only 20 community college CEOs invited to participate in the White House Summit on Community Colleges on Oct. 5. I also would like to acknowledge Congressman William Lacy Clay for nominating me to attend and Sen. Claire McCaskill for her support of my participation

The summit, convened by Second Lady  Dr. Jill Biden, provided an opportunity to bring together students, community colleges, business, philanthropic, federal and state policy leaders and others to discuss how community colleges can help meet the job training and education needs of our nation’s evolving work force. The full text of remarks by Dr. Biden and President Obama can be found by following this link. The text of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s remarks can be found at this link.

This truly is a historic time for community colleges. We have been called the “backbone of our nation’s educational and workforce system.” The Obama Administration has set a goal that by 2020 America will again lead the world in producing college graduates. Our role is critical, in that community colleges have been challenged to produce an additional 5 million degrees and certificates at the conclusion of this decade.

Jill Biden  
Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden addresses the
participants during the opening session.

At the summit, discussion groups focused on the major challenges facing two-year institutions today, as well as some of the best practices being adopted to meet them. We discussed college completion, transfer, financial aid, innovation, partnerships with business, supporting small businesses, and services for veterans and their families.

As I sat in these discussions, I was amazed – and proud – that St. Louis Community College already is addressing many of these key issues through our strategic planning efforts and initiatives, such as Achieving the Dream, and other efforts aimed at workforce development and job training. But there is much more work to be done.

The national agenda mirrors what Gov. Jay Nixon outlined for Missouri’s higher education institutions in his Higher Education Summit in August. Despite the economic constraints under which we must operate, the Governor has called upon all of us to focus efforts on attainment, academic program review, funding, and collaboration and cooperation.

We have been challenged to nearly double the percentage of adults in Missouri with college degrees, from the current 37 percent to 60 percent by 2025. To achieve this goal, we must take a hard look at how we conduct business. We must find more efficient, creative approaches to meeting the changing needs of our students, communities and the state, and to help individuals acquire the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy.

 

We are fortunate at STLCC to have incredibly talented faculty and staff to help us realize these goals. Working together, I am confident that St. Louis Community College can be a national model for student success, degree attainment and innovation in community partnerships.