Santa Barbara City College Superintendent/President Dr. Jack Friedlander attended the Winning the Future initiative conference Wednesday night at the White House to discuss policies for improving the quality of community college education nationwide.

Friedlander attended the prestigious conference as a Champion of Change in the community college arena to help achieve President Obama’s goal to further develop an educated and competitive work force from the country’s youth. Representatives from the nine other community college finalists for the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program — an award recognizing the nation’s top 10 percent of city colleges — attended to convene with senior members of the executive branch.

According to Friedlander, the conference focused primarily on improving federal budgetary decisions in an effort to provide better funding to colleges.

“The administration has realized how community colleges can be in partnership with the White House to provide an educated workforce for industries, prepare students with jobs and skill sets needed in the 21st century and better ensure employers will be able to fill the workforce with the talent they need,” Friedlander said. “We can help business and industries and get the unemployment and underemployed rates down, but we also have to understand the constraints the administration has in terms of translating these wonderful ideas into reality.”

The Aspen Institute selected SBCC last week as one the top 10 finalists out of the nation’s roughly 1,200 community colleges to compete for the award’s one million dollar prize fund. Friedlander said the organization chose institutions which were proven to be qualified on a number of educational fronts.

“The Institute made their decision based on a number of factors, including the percentage of students who get associate degrees, percent who transfer to four-year universities and of those students who complete their degrees in three years or less,” Friedlander said. “The conference made me proud of how innovative and creative our university has been … but I’ve also realized that other schools are doing wonderful things, too.”

According to Friedlander, the Obama administration saw the Aspen Institute’s focus on education as inspiration for its efforts to improve the national workforce.

“Obama’s greatest vision is that in order for us to take leadership in the world we have to out-educate, out-innovate and out-build the rest of the world,” Friedlander said. “When they heard about the Aspen Institute they were also inspired to support community colleges and their role in this vision.”