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Godwin attends summit
White House event focused on education
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Dr. Angeline Godwin

Friday, January 17, 2014

From Bulletin staff reports

Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) President Dr. Angeline Godwin said she was encouraged by what she learned Thursday during a nationwide summit of more than 100 college presidents at the White House.

Specifically, she said, “one of the things that was most exciting to me” was the emphasis placed on the value of community colleges, which are “the access point for so many students.”

The discussion focused on bringing students from “lower-income homes and disadvantaged situations ... into a position to go to college” and graduate, she said.

“The future of the economy is completely tied into education, and the number of lower-income students who finish a four-year degree was about 9 percent,” she learned during the summit.

What defines “low-income” was not specified during the meeting, Godwin said, though she suggested one criteria to determine it would be “anyone who was eligible for a (federal) Pell grant.”

Meeting with Obama administration officials, educators explored ways that higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations and the private sector can help more low-income students attend college and be successful at learning.

Godwin said several strategies were discussed to increase opportunities for lower-income students. She also was encouraged to hear how many of those strategies were familiar.

“Most of the innovative initiatives that were explored today for addressing this issue ... I was surprised how many of those we are implementing to some degree or some level,” she said.

For example, it as suggested that students be offered a “college survival skills course,” and an accelerated developmental program for those who need remediation. Also, it was suggested colleges form strong partnerships with the local K-12 schools and offer dual-enrollment courses for high school students. All of those things are offered at PHCC, Godwin said.

Participating schools were to make new commitments to education, develop goals for campus reforms and adopt best practices to support students who are not fully prepared for college. The latter could include rethinking how remediation efforts are provided, according to a news release.

“We have been asked to make a commitment to the action that we would take” to increase the number of lower-income enrollees, Godwin said, in a measurable way. “Those are real numbers, real performance standards,” she said. “You either do it or you don’t.”

PHCC’s three-year goals include ensuring that:

• 75 percent of all students complete all of their developmental requirements within one year of continuous enrollment.

• 75 percent of all students in applied learning programs will complete developmental math requirements within one semester.

• 75 percent of all students in non-STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) transfer programs will complete developmental math requirements within one semester.

• 75 percent of all students will successfully complete “gateway” (credit-bearing) math requirements within one year of continuous enrollment.

• 75 percent of all students will successfully complete gateway English requirements within one year of continuous enrollment.

Efforts already are in place to achieve these commitments, such as working with high schools to ensure students take math classes through their senior years and testing students so they can undergo remediation in high school instead of in college, according to PHCC officials.

Greg Hodges, PHCC’s dean of academic success and college transfer, said the college is on its way to meeting its goals.

Among students in college for the first time in 2012-13, Hodges said, 75 percent completed their developmental English requirements within one year, while 73 percent completed their developmental math requirements in one year.

“Moreover, we are seeing similar results with students completing their first level of credit-bearing English and math” courses, Hodges said. “We feel very confident that our innovative cooperative learning strategies coupled with an engaged faculty and staff will allow us to exceed these goals within three years.”

Also, the Virginia Community College System’s Rural Horseshoe Initiative is working to increase post-secondary education and degree attainment levels for people in rural parts of the state.

The program is striving to provide full-time career coaches for every high school in a region served by a rural community college in Virginia. It also will expand financial incentives to encourage people who are not high school graduates to complete a GED program, PHCC officials said.

“When you have the right support and the right inspiration” and put low-income students in the right environment, “they achieve equally” with their peers who come from more financially-advantaged circumstances, Godwin added.

The educational summit’s agenda included a welcome from Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, followed by Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, gave remarks before a lunch discussion with breakout groups on how to reach students early in their college experience. Following lunch, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the group.

On Wednesday in Washington, Godwin met with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

“Patrick Henry Community College is doing terrific work to reach first-generation college students, as well as provide a large number of local high school students with the chance to take dual enrollment courses at no cost to parents or students,” Kaine said. “Programs like this provide low-income families with opportunities to get a head start on their college education while in high school, which reduces the expense and time required to complete college, and I’m so pleased President Obama has recognized their impressive efforts.”

In short, Godwin said, “it’s a mindset as much as anything,” adding that colleges must became “evangelists of education.”


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