On Oct. 25, I was one of only 20 college presidents asked to address Education Secretary Arne Duncan on issues facing Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI). Secretary Duncan made it clear that President Obama intends to increase accountability for all segments of higher education, with federal dollars supplementing colleges with the highest graduation rates.
Myself and all of the attending presidents welcome increased accountability, but we are wary of making graduation rates the single performance indicator.
Community colleges on the whole, and especially HSIs, are “open door” institutions that have student bodies very different than selective admission colleges and universities. As many as 75 percent of community college students nationwide need to take extra classes just to get them performing at the college level. This extra time frequently postpones graduating in three years after first enrolling, which is the time limit that the president mandates in his accountability model.
In addition, we pointed out the fact that 75 percent of all new employees entering the workplace in this country between 2010 and 2020 will be Latino, and HSIs are primarily responsible for their education and training.
However, funding for HSIs has consistently been reduced from the federal budget, making it more and more challenging for institutions like Morton College to supply its Latino students with the quality education they need and deserve. Secretary Duncan agreed and said that he would share our concerns with President Obama.
Time will tell if our collective voice was heeded.
Dr. Dana Grove is the president of Morton College