Secretary of Education praises Austin Community College, addresses concerns


Fanny Trang

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier (left) and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (right) were invited Thursday at the Austin Community College Eastview campus to discuss educational issues at the college level.

Liz Farmer

The U.S. Secretary of Education praised Austin Community College when he spoke to ACC students and faculty on Thursday.

Students asked U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan questions about affordability at the ACC Eastview campus.

Duncan said community colleges should converse with the private sector to better align students’ training with employer needs. Duncan said he is surprised by the high number of available jobs and the high number of unemployed individuals.

“There are about 2 million high wage, high skilled jobs that are going unfilled,” Duncan said. “We have to break these barriers. Part of the reason we’re here is that we think ACC is doing an extraordinary job of building those public-private partnerships.”

Occupy Austin supporters chanted over Duncan’s opening remarks and said they were against corporatizing public education and yelled “our schools are not for sale. Our teachers are not for sale. Our students are not for sale.”

Occupy UT students used a similar protest approach with President William Powers Jr. to express distaste for recommendations to increase tuition in December.

Addressing the crowd’s concerns about the shortage of teachers, Duncan said many baby boomer generation teachers will retire soon. He said this makes attracting and retaining top faculty more important in the near future because it will shape higher education for the next 30 years.

“Teachers are the most altruistic folks I know.” Duncan said. “But they shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty either.”