Edmonds Community College Board of Trustees member Emily Yim attended the White House Community College Convening on Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C.
Yim has served as an Edmonds CC trustee since 2007. She is also the chair-elect for the national Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Board, a nonprofit representing 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the U.S. and beyond.
The convening featured a retrospective of the Obama Administration’s accomplishments on behalf of community colleges and of the College Promise Campaign’s six-year effort to build broad support to guarantee free community college education to hardworking students across the country.
The campaign is a national, nonpartisan, local, and state-led higher education initiative. Yim said it is a critical and necessary part of a strategy to break down barriers and provide universal access to college education.
“The College Promise Campaign is an important step in ensuring that all students have access to a post-secondary education,” she said. “The reality is we have about 31 percent of Washington high school students who go on to earn postsecondary credentials by the age of 26. However, we are going to need a lot more than a third if we are going to meet the growing economic needs in our region.”
In Washington state, there is a projected 740,000 job openings in the next five years. The majority of those jobs will require a post-secondary education or training.
To Yim, universal access to basic education, which includes the necessity for post-secondary education like certificates, apprenticeships, or two- and four-year degrees, is critical to the economy.
“This is a workforce development strategy and an investment back into our economy,” she said.
Community colleges are uniquely positioned to help close the skills gap by providing affordable post-secondary education to diverse populations.
“What makes community colleges so unique and relevant are the students we serve,” Yim said. “We have the honor of serving returning veterans, single moms, displaced workers, and those struggling with food insecurities and homelessness.
“We serve the young, the young at heart, and everyone in between.”
There are more than 150 College Promise programs across 37 states that offer free tuition in varying degrees through partnerships with industry, philanthropy, local government and school districts.
Yim said the current presidential administration has offered support on a national level and shined a spotlight on community colleges, and Second Lady of the U.S., Dr. Jill Biden, has served as “an incredible advocate for the momentum, excitement and necessity for universal access.”
Biden has been a professor at Northern Virginia Community College since moving to Washington, D.C. in 2009 after her husband, Joe Biden, was elected vice-president and a champion of community colleges.
Yim said regardless of the presidential election, the call to action remains the same: Stay committed to the work.
“If we want to help people earn livable wages, fill and compete for those career jobs, and grow our economy, we need to invest in our students,” Yim said. “We cannot afford to do otherwise.”
ACCT is a major voice of community college trustees to the presidential administration, U.S. Congress, the Departments of Education and Labor, and more.
The Board of Trustees ensures the accountability of Edmonds Community College. Each member must reside within the college’s district boundaries. The trustees also serve the statewide system of community and technical colleges responsible for creating opportunities for students across the state on the Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges.
For more information about the college’s Board of Trustees, visit edcc.edu/leadership.