Suburban college presidents meeting with Obama Thursday

  • David Sam

    David Sam

  • Douglas Baker

    Douglas Baker

  • Kenneth Ender

    Kenneth Ender

Updated 12/4/2014 2:08 PM

A delegation of suburban college presidents will meet with President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden Thursday to talk about increasing the numbers of students completing college.

Northern Illinois University President Douglas Baker is heading up the delegation, which includes Elgin Community College President David Sam, who is representing community colleges as part of the Northern Illinois Regional P-20 Network at the White House College Opportunity Summit in Washington, D.C.


Harper College President Kenneth Ender and the superintendents of Districts 211, 214 and 220 also will be present.

The summit brings together colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofit groups supporting more college opportunities for students nationwide.

"We all have a vested interest in improving the educational attainment of the students in our region," Baker said. "We're in this together, and by identifying areas where we can collaborate, we can work together to ensure students are well positioned for success in the college classroom and beyond in new, impactful and innovative ways."

The summit will focus on building sustainable collaborations within communities with strong K-12 and higher education partnerships to encourage more students to get college degrees. The aim is to encourage colleges to work together to improve student retention and increase college completion, especially for first generation, low-income and underrepresented students.

The Regional P-20 Network comprises 26 educational institutions in northern Illinois, including NIU and eight regional community college partners, 10 school districts and seven statewide education agencies and advocacy organizations. Its leadership meets regularly to develop actionable strategies for reaching the goal of producing 30,000 additional college-ready students in the region by 2025.

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"We know when we work together we can be more effective in supporting student success," Sam said. "District 509's Alliance for College Readiness is a perfect example of how K-12 districts, community colleges and four-year schools can partner to support college readiness."

ECC has been nationally recognized for its Alliance for College Readiness, formed in 2006, in partnership with 12 public high schools and most middle schools within the college's boundaries. College faculty members partner with their K-12 counterparts to ensure high school graduates are ready for college-level courses.

"Over the last eight years, we've seen a tremendous uptick in the number of students who are college ready," Sam said. "If you do not have the requisite reading, writing or math ability, then you have to go into developmental education, and that sets you back."

Studies show a strong correlation between how educated a state's workforce is and median wages. Increasing access to high-quality education helps strengthen the regional economy, officials said.

"As a business owner, I believe that the P-20 and workforce are joined at the hip," said John Rico, co-chair of the Illinois Workforce Investment Board. "Businesses depend on the K-12 and higher ed institutions to create the proper programs that offer students the required soft skills, training, degrees and certifications necessary for all students to thrive and prosper in their career development."

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