CCAF represented at White House community colleges summit

by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs

10/29/2010 - WASHINGTON -- Lt. Col. Tim Albrecht, commandant of the Community College of the Air Force, served as the Department of Defense representative at a White House community college summit recently.

A broad spectrum of people attended the summit, including administrators, educators, philanthropists and representatives from businesses and nonprofit organizations.

"While access to college, physically and financially, were issues during discussions, a primary concern was the issue of program completion -- how to get enrolled students across the finish line to a degree," said Colonel Albrecht.

A report by Inside Higher Ed, an online publication, stated that the U.S. has fallen from first in graduation rates to ninth in the span of a decade.

The summit emphasized the value community colleges hold for President Barack Obama's stated goal of returning the U.S. to first place among nations for percentage of the population with a college degree, said Colonel Albrecht.

"Community colleges are the largest part of the nation's higher education system, enrolling more than 8 million students and growing," he said. "They are more affordable, more accessible and more flexible than their four-year college counterparts."

The summit was hosted by Dr. Jill Biden, a community college educator and the wife of vice president Joe Biden, and featured discussion group sessions focusing on a variety of related topics.

Colonel Albrecht was involved with the veterans discussion group led by Admiral Michael Mullin, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the primary topic being the difficulties for veterans transitioning from military service to the education arena.
Veterans face a number of educational demands after leaving their respective services, said Colonel Albrecht.

"Upon leaving the service, veterans enrolling in higher education programs experience a dramatic shift from the structured life in the military," he said. "Unless already exposed to college programs while in the service, an enlisted veteran is likely facing college for the first time as a nontraditional student, one with years of employment experience but also family demands."

Key issues facing veterans seeking higher education include awareness of education benefits and admissions processes, career counseling and support for physical or mental combat-related issues, said Colonel Albrecht.

CCAF addresses many of the academic needs of Airmen who will eventually transition back into the civilian workforce "by providing college credit for training and education delivered during the course of his or her career, hopefully including the CCAF associate's degree. With an accredited college degree under his or her belt, the Air Force veteran can step up the higher education ladder confident in their ability to meet the challenge of college academics," said Colonel Albrecht.

The Air Force leads the way when it comes to two-year degree acquisition. According to stats from the fiscal year 2009 Department of Defense Voluntary Education Program report, nearly 25 percent of the Air Force enlisted corps holds an associates degree or higher, leading all other services.

Air Force enlisted personnel represent about 22 percent of the enlisted population of the Department of Defense, yet earned 78 percent of the two-year degrees earned in the Department of Defense. Of the two-year degrees enlisted Airmen earned, 77 percent were CCAF degrees.