From Donna Jones, EdD, Senior Pedagogical Solutions
Donna 3

It’s a great time to be a community college! 

America’s community
colleges, now more than ever, are educating
today’s workforce in basic skills and job preparation training, allowing our country to better compete in a
global economy. This past summer President Obama announced his American
Graduation Initiative
, a 10-year, $12 billion plan to improve the community
college system. The main objective of this
program is to graduate 5 million students from community colleges by 2020 in an
effort to improve the American economy by supplementing our own labor pool with
a higher skilled workforce. 

The proposed Community
College Challenge Fund
will administer grants for this initiative.
One important criteria for eligibility of the grant funding is that community
colleges must demonstrate improved educational and employment outcomes to
receive the funding.  They will also be required to report to stakeholders
their effectiveness in meeting predefined measures of student success that are
still being defined. Additionally, the plan indicates that institutions
creating effective and replicable models that help students “learn, graduate,
and secure jobs” will be favored to receive continued funding. 
Transparency to prospective students and employers of how effective community
college’s are achieving these measures will be an important part of the
President’s initiative. 

According to this preliminary information, there is little
doubt that community colleges, which already have a culture of continuous
improvement and who are currently utilizing assessment practices, will be
better prepared to obtain and renew these funds. Unfortunately, many
institutions are only in the formative stages of creating this culture and do
not have the needed processes in place to assist them in demonstrating evidence
of their achievements. Accordingly, institutions hoping to obtain grant dollars
from the American Graduation Initiative should begin looking internally today
to assess their culture and readiness to gather data, document their
activities, and transparently report on their effectiveness for helping
students learn, graduate, and obtain jobs.  

Thanks to this initiative, community colleges in America
stand ready to do their part to improve the economy and take the lead in
the development of skilled workers. By improving assessment practices along the
way, America’s community colleges will certainly not only increase graduation
rates by 2020, but persist as key contributors to our educational foundation by
continually recognizing opportunities for improvement.  

For additional reading on the American Graduation
Initiative, please see the following sources:

U.S. Push for Free
Online Classes

A Boon to
2-Year Colleges, Affirming Their Value

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