Hundreds of Higher Ed Faculty Gather in San Jose to Share Ideas on Increased Demand for Higher Ed With Fewer State Dollars

Mar 25, 2010, 09:00 ET from National Education Association

$2 billion new federal dollars for community colleges  will it pass, will it be enough?

SAN JOSE, Calif., March 25 While the U.S. Senate debates whether to provide $2 billion in funding for community colleges, higher ed faculty and staff from across the U.S. are gathering in San Jose to strategize about ways to provide a quality education to students even as states cut funding to their schools.

"Putting the economy back on track requires investing in community colleges," said Jim Rice, a community college professor from Massachusetts and president of NEA's National Council for Higher Education. "Community colleges are economic drivers that produce graduates local businesses want to hire."

The legislation under Senate consideration provides roughly $2 billion for grants to community colleges. The funds will be distributed through an existing Department of Labor program called Trade Adjustment Assistance. While this program traditionally provides direct benefits for training, health insurance support, and other supports to workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign trade, the new funding will provide program support money to community colleges that are often on the frontline of worker training.

More than 700 faculty and staff from U.S. universities and colleges are attending the San Jose gathering. That number includes educators from 4-year comprehensive and research universities  as well as educators from community and technical colleges. NEA represents over 200,000 higher education employees in the U.S.

In addition to the solutions to higher ed funding gaps in states, participants will exchange ideas on how to increase and retain the number of women and people of color, both as faculty and students, at all levels of higher education.  Strategies to improve access and the success of students, including Latino students, the fastest growing group of students entering U.S. colleges, will be a special focus.  

Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell will be on hand on Friday evening to discuss a number of critical issues facing the nation with participants  Harris-Lacewell is a frequent contributor to MSNBC and blogs at the  Under Secretary of Education for Post Secondary Education Martha Kantor will discuss the Department of Education's commitment to ensuring higher education institutions graduate more students.

A complete schedule for the gathering can be viewed on  The conference is being sponsored by the NEA and the AFT.

SOURCE National Education Association