Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

The Impact of the Second on Community Colleges

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

The Impact of the Second on Community Colleges

Article excerpt

President Barack Obama is no stranger to criticism, tic has been demonized by some of his opponents, and even a segment of his most ardent supporters has expressed disappointment with some aspects of his first four years in office, Although he has, from the start, been a champion of education, some supporters have mixed feelings about what he has done and might still do in terms of four-year institutions. However, when it comes to community colleges, the praise for what Obama has done and what he will continue to do, at least from the four minority educators interviewed for this article, is expansive and unqualified.

"Before Obama came to power, it was hard to find articles on community colleges even in mainstream educational publications," says Eduardo J. Padrón, Ph.D., president of Miami Dade College in Florida. "But Obama put community colleges front and center in the national spotlight. He validated our work and helped us not only with federal programs but also with attracting the attention of corporations. For the government grants wc have received from sources such as the departments of Education and Labor, important as they are. cannot do it alone. We need to work with corporations to provide real solutions by creating real jobs for the marketplace."

Padrón reports that the eight campuses of Miami Dade College have 176,000 students, about 70 percent of whom are Hispanic. "We enroll and graduate more minorities, including Hispanics and African-Americans, than any other institution in the United States," he says.

The school has grown to include four-year college degrees, so students are prepared for both die immediate labor market and to move on to higher education. "I arrived in this country as an immigrant teenager from Cuba, and the only institution that gave mc access and opened the door for me was what was then called the Dade County Community College," recalls Padrón.

Padrón went on to earn his Ph.D. in economics from die University of florida, went to Miami Dade to teach economic;;, climbed up the administrative ladder, was president of one of Miami Dade's colleges for 15 years, and then of the entire institution for the past 17 years. Padrón has been recognized through a wide array of local, national and international awards. He has been appointed to positions of prominence by the past six presidents, most recently by Obama as chairman on the White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

"Community colleges are truly an American invention, a way to provide the average person access to both the job market and higher education," Padrón says. "President Obama has truly put community colleges on die map, and 1 believe his support will only grow during his second term, in a way tìiat will make not only Democrats but also Republicans very happy."

"1 really believe that President Obama's policies for community colleges have been ven7 positive, to attract our young people and retrain our adult residents so they may enter the work force as soon as possible," says Pete Campos, Ed.D., president, Luna Community College, near Las Vegas, N.M. "This is a significant trend across the country, but it is especially important here in northern Xew Mexico, where 80 percent of the population is Hispanic, living in small communities, with a high level of poverty." Campos reports that Luna's current enrollment is 2,790, of whom 2,158 or 77.3 percent are Hispanic.

Campos began taking advantage of Obama's support of community colleges right at the start of his first administration. "For the past four and a half years, we have worked diligently to develop our goals and become eligible for Title V and other grants, and we have been successful," Campos says.

A special focus has been high school dropouts that the school has been able to train and ?? which llic school provides the necessary skills to become carpenters and work in odier trades. At the same time, the school has reached back into the educational pipeline to provide dual education, enabling students to earn credits for both high school and community college simultaneously. …

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