With emerging economies producing millions of college graduates every year in addition to the continued rise in college degree holders in developed areas, a high school diploma is becoming obsolete in today’s global economy. With private colleges rejecting a larger proportion of students every year and public universities facing budget cuts in the underperforming economy, community colleges play a unique role in picking up the slack.
According to President Obama’s education reform plan, “by 2020, America will once again lead the world in producing college graduates, and community colleges will play a huge part in meeting this goal.” This article will look at how the Obama Administration will reach this goal in addition to highlighting the multifaceted efforts of the Gates Foundation in educational development.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, contributes millions every year to improve the US education system. In terms of K-12 education, the Gates Foundation aims to graduate all high school students with the necessary skills for college (PDF). Furthermore, the Gates Foundation has focused on developing community college as a means of supporting postsecondary education options in the US. Below are several initiatives that the Gates Foundation has taken on in recent years.
- Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching
The Gates Foundation is currently partnered with the Hillsborough County Public School District, Memphis City District, Pittsburgh Public Schools District, and College-Ready Promise network of school districts in projects supporting teachers who are effective at teaching and promoting success within their students. With investments ranging from $40 million to $100 million in these school districts, the Foundation is creating grants and scholarships to support teachers, the backbone of success in the field of education.
- Complete College AmericaAnother program funded by the Gates Foundation is the Complete Innovation Challenge. Established by the Complete College America organization, the Complete Innovation Challenge is an initiative inspiring innovation among state school systems to boost college completion rates. The Challenge is offering ten $1 million grants to states that propose the best plans. Currently, Arkansas, Kentucky, Colorado, Maryland, and Georgia have been announced as the winners of the challenge. Each state will use the funds in different ways, but the main focus of investments have been towards developing remedial programs and boosting college completion among community college students.
US Department of Education
The Department of Education focuses on promoting academic excellence in every stage of the US education process through distributing grants and initiatives nationwide. Specifically, the Department of Education supports community colleges through its Office of Postsecondary Education. The Office supports a wide range of initiatives and research projects on the topic of postsecondary success through its different departments. We will describe a few of the initiatives focused towards educators below.
The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education is the Federal Government’s main initiative in terms of education-sector development. The Fund is determined yearly based on the Federal Government’s budget, and allocated based on a set of priorities determined by the Department of Education. Currently, the fund has pinpointed several priorities that will receive preferential treatment, including:
- Increasing postsecondary success
- Enabling more data-based decision making
- Improving productivity
For the fiscal year of 2010, the Fund provided grants for several projects outlined here (PDF). Several examples of projects funded include:
- Preparing Teachers for These Times – This project, proposed by Bard College, seeks to conduct research and implement a teacher education program which leverages existing school establishments in order to increase the effectiveness of teachers in the future.
- Learning Through Interdisciplinary Frameworks for Teachers – George Washington University’s initiative will use funding to implement a nationwide teacher preparation program with a cross-disciplinary focus. Given GWU’s nationally-recognized program in bilingual special education, its existing faculty is in an appropriate position to spearhead this initiative.
- Developing Globally Literate Teachers Through Excellence in Mobility Projects – Piloted by Georgia State University, this project aims to improve teacher and faculty mobility to expand the multidisciplinary knowledge of teachers in the US education system. In addition, the framework which is proposed in this project will facilitate teacher-student collaboration during study-abroad experiences, deepening the level of cultural understanding drawn upon such experiences.
Unfortunately, the competition has been cancelled for 2011. According to the Department of Education, “congressional action on the fiscal year 2011 budget substantially reduced funds available for grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, including new grants under the Comprehensive Program”. Instead, the remaining funds will be used to fund existing projects to their full extents.