Frank Chong gets a big promotion

December 9, 2009 7:01:35 PM PST
A Bay Area college has a new opening at the top. The head of Laney College in Oakland is leaving to become President Barack Obama's deputy assistant secretary for community colleges.

Frank Chong will oversee an estimated 1,200 community colleges nationwide. He will lead Obama's team which wants to transform these two-year colleges.

"The President's goal is very simple. He wants to double the number of college graduates in the next 10 years and in order to do that, we have to figure out where the log jams are," says Chong.

"All too often community colleges are treated like the stepchild of the education system," said Obama back in July 2009.

Last July, Obama announced he would give community colleges $12 billion over the next 10 years. Dr. Chong will play an important role in deciding which community colleges get that money and why.

Dr. Chong wants community colleges to focus more on programs that will train students for the next generation of jobs.

"Programs that are really focused on achievement and completion, and we are finding too often studies that have been done on community colleges, that it's start, stop, start, stop and students don't get through to the end," says Chong.

Here are two good examples: Canada College in San Mateo County is focusing on becoming a regional center for science, technology, engineering and math. Laney College is training more people in green careers.

Chris Surawski is an unemployed carpenter. He's now enrolled in an energy efficiency program.

"I believe the green job market is going to be a future, future employment and I believe California will be on the forefront in that field," says Surawski.

While in Washington, Chong will push for greater financial aid programs from the federal government. That's because he knows states like California have made drastic cuts to education.

"And we're also looking at partnering with foundations, Lumina, The Gates Foundation, Hewlett because they see that community colleges provide the best bang for the buck," says Chong.

Chong believes those trained at community colleges will play an important role in the economic recovery of the country.


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