The 2022 ACCT Leadership Congress continued Thursday with continued calls to support students and families, as keynote speaker Aysha E. Schomburg, J.D., urged community college leaders to not shy away from one particular word.
“When you are doing the work we do of supporting vulnerable families, love is the most professional word,” said Schomburg, associate commissioner of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau.
Schomburg noted that the nation’s more than 400,000 foster children need support to enroll and persist through college as they age out of care, with one study showing that just 7 percent receive a degree or credential by the time they turn 21.
Colleges can provide supports ranging from application assistance and holistic student supports that address basic needs to tutoring and other forms of academic support, but Schomburg said the single most valuable resource for these students is a trusted contact or coach “they can call on and rely on.”
Schomburg noted that the challenges of foster youth are shared by many young adults, a theme repeated throughout the day.
The pandemic “finally gave us a moment to bring that to light and actually be intentional about how to address these issues more systemically for all of our students,” said Eileen Strempel, a professor at the UCLA School of Education who lead a discussion with trustees from the Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees. “[It] took away the shame for the students — everyone’s struggling with the same things — and gave a really clear and moral challenge to our colleges.”
A wide range of sessions covered support through the lens of equity and racial justice. Trustees and staff from the Los Angeles Community College District discussed the district’s student bill of rights for LGBTQIA+ students—the first of its kind on a community college campus. “We took a bold step in protecting our students’ rights,” said LACCD Trustee David Vela.
Also Thursday, community college leaders were briefed on federal legislative priorities, just weeks before November’s midterm elections. Public policy experts from ACCT and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) said that while the outcome of the elections remains uncertain, opportunities will emerge to seek continued bipartisan support, including through anticipated legislation focused on workforce, taxation, human services, and rural areas.
“As we look at the agenda for the 118th Congress, we’re looking for opportunities to creatively support our colleges and students,” said Carrie Warick-Smith, ACCT vice president of public policy. “Community colleges have broad bipartisan support—the two parties don’t always select the same topics, but everyone… understands they’re very locally and regionally focused and support their constituents.”
The 2022 ACCT Leadership Congress continues through Saturday with more than 100 sessions and workshops.
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The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond.