OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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Remarks of Deputy Assistant Secretary Pat Stanley at the 2007 Houston Community College Faculty Conference

April 25, 2007
Contact: Angela Desrochers
(202) 245-7722

Houston, Texas — Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education Pat Stanley addressed the Houston Community College Faculty Conference Community Colleges: We Are the Future on February 17, 2007, in the George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston, Texas. Following are Deputy Secretary Stanley's remarks:

Thank you for the kind introduction. I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk with you today and to bring you greetings from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Troy Justesen. I feel so fortunate to be in a position to promote and support our nation’s community colleges.

Congratulations to Mary Spangler, Houston Community College’s new chancellor. We go way back to our days in California. I can assure you that you are in good hands. It is my pleasure to also have worked in the past with other presidents and administrators from your area, the Gulf Coast Community College Consortium.

Community college faculty members are the most dedicated professionals I know. Not only are they experts in their various disciplines, but they also are committed to helping all students succeed. With the open-access mission of community colleges, our students are far from homogeneous, and it takes experts like you to make student success a reality.

I taught in junior high, high school, undergraduate and graduate programs at various universities and I also taught in several community colleges. All this before I went on to what one colleague called “the dark side” – college administration.

I loved teaching, and I loved being an administrator as both positions allowed me to positively affect and provided leadership to our students. I’ve walked a mile or two in your shoes and fully recognize that what happens in the classroom between you and your students is the heart of the community college enterprise. I deeply admire all that you do every day. You have chosen a challenging and rewarding vocation. Our country depends on you to keep up the important work you do in changing lives.

When community colleges were established over a century ago, their mission was to provide the first two years of a four-year college education. With the rising costs of tuition at four-year institutions this mission is as critical as ever, and is especially important for those first-generation students who are striving to succeed in the 21st-century economy.

And speaking of cost—according to the findings of the Secretary’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, “tuition continues to outpace inflation, health care costs, and family income levels.” Recent studies show that while middle income has risen by 30%, the average cost to attend a public four-year college or university rose 51% after adjusting for inflation (the increase for private schools is 36%). That is the bad news. The good news is that the cost to attend a community college has kept pace with income levels, coming in at a 30% increase in costs.

But community colleges are much more than a cost-effective way to participate in higher education. Community colleges provide developmental education, adult basic education, and instruction for English language learners. They are often the bridge between secondary and postsecondary education, offering dual credit courses for high school students. In today’s knowledge economy, community colleges lead the way in training and workforce development for business and industry.

Through innovative programs such as Early College High Schools and your newly opened Construction Trades Academy funded through a U.S. Department of Education Tech-Prep Demonstration Grant, you are laying the foundation for high school students to attend postsecondary institutions.

Through initiatives such as Achieving the Dream, Houston Community College and the other participating colleges from the Gulf Coast Consortium are helping a group of students who face many barriers to success. I recently heard a presentation about Houston’s transformation of student services at the Bellweather Awards. Community colleges continue to do amazing things!

Community colleges are the future. About 11 million Americans attend community colleges annually. The Houston Community College System alone serves over 50,000 students. (Houston Community College is the fourth largest in the country.) Yet community colleges haven’t always received the respect and recognition that they should.

But things are changing and these are exciting times for community colleges.

When Secretary Spellings formed her bi-partisan Commission on the Future of Higher Education, she was sure to include a community college president, Dr. Charlene Nunley. Dr. Nunley is quoted as saying “I am pleased that the first recommendation of the report calls for broadly enhanced access to postsecondary education and the restoration of the buying power of the Pell Grant. This recommendation is of utmost importance to community colleges.”

President Bush’s 2008 budget reflects a commitment to increase Pell Grants. He is asking to increase the maximum award from $4,600 in 2008 and $5,400 over five years.

This past spring, President Bush, speaking before the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College 2006 graduating class, became the first sitting president to deliver a commencement address at a community college.

The President’s Community-based Job Training Grants Initiative, through the U.S. Department of Labor, awarded $125 million in grants to 72 community colleges and one-stop career centers. I was delighted to be on stage with the board at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) when the president announced these awards.

Our Assistant Secretary, Troy Justesen, who is from a small town in rural Utah, received his postsecondary start at a community college. He and his twin brother were the only two people in their entire family to go to college. He understands, firsthand, the benefits of community colleges. He is committed to giving back to them. When the time came to name a Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) he specifically looked to fill the position with someone with expertise in community colleges.

As a former community college president, I was thrilled to accept this position. I am honored to have been named Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges and delighted to have the opportunity to promote and support community colleges at the national level.

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about who I am – and about my new role at the Department of Education - and my goals for community colleges over the next two years.

I served as President of Frederick Community College (FCC) for 7 years. During my tenure, I led a campus-wide effort to create a new college vision and sense of direction. As we structured our college around our vision to be a premier learning college, we shut down silos and organized around learning and learning support with additional support from administrative services. I also started an Executive Leadership Development Program. I am proud to say that while I served as president, our student body increased by 20 percent. But more importantly, our retention and transfer rates increased and our employer group indicated our programs were meeting their needs.

I was also a board member of the National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE) as well as a member of the Board of Directors for the American Association of Community Colleges and president of the Maryland Council of Community College CEOs, which led to me serving on the executive board of the Maryland Association of State Community Colleges.

I have consulted worldwide. America’s community colleges are global models for economic development. I have been to many countries to talk about our community colleges and worked specifically in Kuwait and Thailand to help those countries develop community college-type programs of their own.

In my spare time, I used to like to cook!

My passion in life is that of lifelong learning, economic development and the promotion of community colleges, not just as a means of postsecondary education for those who are disadvantaged academically and economically, but also as a means of continuing education for everybody

One of my immediate priorities in my role as Deputy Assistant Secretary is to reach out and touch as many high school guidance counselors as I possibly can to ask them to add “attending a community college for the first two years” as a viable postsecondary option for all.

It is just one small part of a strategic plan that our office is developing for serving community colleges.

Our mission will be to serve as the federal hub for the information and leadership required to improve accessibility, affordability, accountability, and quality in community college education.

Our focus will be on collaboration and partnership with key constituency groups. We will also lead an effective communication effort to foster public support of community colleges.

It is an ambitious plan that I look forward to implementing

As we all know, many of our high school students are not prepared academically to do college-level work. According to recent estimates, we spend approximately $1.4 billion every year on developmental education. Our K-12 students must be better prepared.

With No Child Left Behind, we are making progress toward our goal of every child being proficient in reading and doing math at grade level by 2014. Reauthorization of this legislation is the highest priority of the President and the Secretary of Education.

As a part of his plan to increase academic rigor in high schools, President Bush has called for an increase in Advanced Placement courses. Encouraging more students to participate in dual enrollment courses is also a major component of the plan.

I would like to commend you on the work you are doing to this end. It is my understanding that the Houston Community College System alone has over 5,000 dual credit students in its service area.

I would also like to tell you about a few of the Department’s many programs and initiatives that are already in place to support the work of community colleges.

Through the State Scholars Initiative, a program administered by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, business leaders start early with middle school students to discuss the economic importance of taking a rigorous and relevant set of courses while in high school. We saw the benefits of this program, firsthand, in Frederick. We actually had to move staff from teaching Developmental English, to teaching English 101. I hope they can soon record the same successful results in math.

We also administer, in cooperation with the League for Innovation in the Community College, the College and Career Transitions Initiative (CCTI). The initiative is designed to develop career pathway models that help ease the transition from secondary to postsecondary education as well as to careers. One of the important outcomes we are seeking is the sharing of promising practices around secondary and postsecondary collaboration.

With the average age of a community college student being 29 years old, we are working to assist you as you serve the adult population as well. We understand the need to address the issues of a growing immigrant population, literacy, and workforce displacement. We administer several programs, such as Moving Beyond the GED: Low-Skilled Adult Transition to Occupational Pathways at Community Colleges, Career Pathways in Adult Basic Education, and Strategic Partnerships for a Competitive Workforce, a partnership between our office and the Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor that focuses on strategies for establishing and nourishing partnerships to support career pathways.

Earlier I mentioned the Secretary’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. In response to its report “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of Higher Education,” Secretary Spellings has called for an action plan to improve accessibility, affordability, and accountability in higher education. Because community colleges serve many disadvantaged students, I would like specifically to highlight the Secretary’s proposals to improve the financial aid system.

Secretary Spellings has called for an increase in funds for need-based aid through the federal financial aid system (FSA). She has proposed to commission an independent management review of FSA and has recommended a partnership with states to use existing income and tax data to help students complete the free application for federal student aid in half the time. By streamlining the process, it is the Secretary’s hope to make it easier for more students and families to pay for college.

I will be discussing the Secretary’s plan as well as OVAE’s initiatives and more in further detail during my session.

Again, many thanks for inviting me to join you today and the opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts about the value of community colleges and how that can be translated into action supported at the Federal level. I look forward to accomplishing a lot over the next two years. I know we may not meet all of your needs, but we’ll stand on our tiptoes trying!

All the best to all of you and congratulations on jobs incredibly well done!



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Last Modified: 07/02/2008