LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow to Sit on National Task Force to Recommend Ways to Strengthen Community Colleges

Long Island City, NY—Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College and a national leader in community college reform, has joined a distinguished group of two- and four-year college educators and community and business leaders on a national task force that is charged with recommending strategies to strengthen community colleges.

The Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal, which is supported by the Ford Foundation and assembled by The Century Foundation, will address an issue that has remained below the radar screen in national and regional discussions over improving college access and completion: the growing racial and socioeconomic divide between two- and four-year institutions.

“I’m excited to be part of the Task Force that will help not only to move students across the finish line to graduation, but also brings some of the most creative minds in our country together to discover ways to ensure equality in funding and resources for two-year institutions,” said LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow. “This work resonates deeply with LaGuardia’s core values of making a college education accessible to all, so students can write their own futures and together we can build a stronger economy and a better world.”

The issue is being addressed at a time when new emphasis is being placed on community colleges and their role in higher education.  Most recently, President Barack Obama, in his recent State of the Union address, described the important role of community colleges.

The group will examine the demographic trends in community colleges; why these developments are of concern; and make recommendations on how to reduce economic and racial stratification.

“Will higher education reduce or exacerbate the growing economic divide in this nation?” said Dr. Anthony Marx, President of the New York Public Library who is co-chairing the group with Eduardo Padron, the President of Miami Dade College.  “If the better funded four-year sector caters to wealthier white students while community college lose funding to educate low-income and minority students, the two-year sector will remain separate and unequal.”

Currently, the U.S. spends almost three times more to educate each four-year college student than it does for students at community colleges.

Dr. Mellow has long presented a compelling argument for investing in community colleges to better educate current students, as well as to reach a larger group of Americans who cannot effectively participate in the U.S. economy without at least an associate degree.  The co-author of Minding the Dream: The Process and Practice of the American Community College (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), Dr. Mellow calls for an investment in our nation’s too often forgotten resource—community colleges–so that the U.S. remains economically competitive and our middle class is strong and productive.

The Task Force is the latest in a long series of groups that The Century Foundation has assembled on important public policy issues such as election reform, elementary and secondary education, and U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

The task force members are:

John Brittain

Law Professor, University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke

School of Law

Former Chief Counsel, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights

Walter G. Bumphus

President and CEO

American Association of Community Colleges

Michele Cahill

Vice President, National Program, and Program Director, Urban Education

Carnegie Corporation of New York

Louis Caldera

Vice President of Programs

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

Patrick M. Callan


Higher Education Policy Institute

Nancy Cantor


Syracuse University

Samuel Cargile

Vice President, Grantmaking

Lumina Foundation for Education

Anthony Carnevale


Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

Michelle Asha Cooper


Institute for Higher Education Policy

Sara Goldrick‑Rab

Associate Professor of Education Policy Studies and Sociology

University of Wisconsin–Madison

Jerome Karabel

Professor of Sociology

University of California–Berkeley

Catherine Koshland

Vice Provost of Teaching, Learning, Academic Planning and Facilities

University of California, Berkeley

Arthur Rothkopf

Former Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Former President, Lafayette College

Sandra Schroeder

President, AFT Washington

Professor, Seattle Central Community College

Louis Soares

Director of the Postsecondary Education Program, Center for American


Former Director of Business Development,

State of Rhode Island

Suzanne Walsh

Senior Program Officer

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Josh Wyner

Executive Director, College Excellence Program

Aspen Institute

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About LaGuardia Community College:

LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit to learn more.

About the Century Foundation:

The Century Foundation is a progressive nonpartisan think tank. Originally known as the Twentieth Century Fund, it was founded in 1919 and initially endowed by Edward Filene, a leading Republican businessman and champion of fair workplaces and employee ownership strategies, all with an eye to ensuring that economic opportunity is available to all. Today, TCF issues analyses and convenes and promotes the best thinkers and thinking across a range of public policy questions.  Its work today focuses on issues of equity and opportunity in the United States, and how American values can be best sustained and advanced in a world of more diffuse power.