Conference Preview: 2009 Career College Association Convention & Exposition

The Magic of Hire Education

Across from the entrance to Disney World and the spires of the Magic Kingdom, career college executives will gather to discuss almost storybook growth. In the failing economy, career colleges have posted enormous growth that should lift spirits as high as the rollercoaster turns at Walt Disney’s Florida dream park during the 2009 Career College Association Convention & Exposition. The conference will be held from June 14-16 at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fla.

Every other year, the career college sector’s largest annual event shifts locations from its placement among the run of casinos on the Las Vegas Strip to another warm climate. In 2007, for example, event organizers bravely slated the event for New Orleans just months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area’s Third Ward and surrounding areas. And while the event was well attended and the downtown area was on its way to regaining momentum, a somewhat somber mood was cast on the event.

This year, though, the pop iconology should help the event draw large numbers and a lighter spirit comparable to the Vegas years. Adding to the jovial mentality of the 2009 event is the sector’s burgeoning environment in which career colleges throughout the nation, overall, are boasting high enrollment numbers and large profits. Times are good, so it’s likely there is never a better time for an association to host an industry convention.

“Times are good for the sector as far as class enrollments go, but there are always issues around the corner that the members need to be planning for, including when the economic recovery will begin,” said Harris Miller, President of the Career College Association. “And there are ongoing critically important changes in the legal and policy environment that are being made more rapidly than in any recent period.”

As always, the convention break out sessions will touch on a broad array of hot topics. Miller said there were several that would dominate conversations during expert-led discussions and informal ones on the convention floor. He said these topics will include default prevention, any placement content relative to the present economy, expanding sources of student funding, such as the new GI bill, Workforce Investment Act increased funding and increased funding through the Trade Adjustment Act.

“Placement in this economy and default prevention will be two of those areas that we hope members will be interested in learning about at this convention,” Miller said. “Convention attendance is always high when there is a hot topic to focus on and there seems to be numerous hot topics every year.”

Events begin on Sunday and the conference will run through Tuesday, contradictory to previous years. In the past, the conference began on Wednesday and wrapped up on Friday, a change that would allow participants to wind down a few days before jumping back into the work week.

The main attractions this year are perhaps the most alluring since last year’s event when Newt Gingrich delivered the address at the event’s closing award ceremony. During the general session, political maverick Chuck Hagel will address the economy and other issues fighting for front page space. The outspoken former senator’s views on the evolving role of the US in the global community “should prove to be compelling,” Miller said. Ted Koppel, the former host of Nightline, will headline the event. Koppel is an icon of broadcast journalism and will provide attendees with plenty of food for thought in these difficult times.

Event organizers are also excited about a breakout workshop in the critical area of default prevention. With consumer loan defaults rising across the board in these recessionary times and the upcoming change in the timeframe of the CDR calculation from two years to three, default prevention has risen to the top of priorities for many schools. This will be an informative session, but will also be highly interactive to motivate schools to work on this issue together.

On the policy front, the enormous changes that have occurred since the last Convention will take center stage, such as the Higher Education Act reauthorization, the new GI bill, increases in Pell grants and other programs to fund training, and a plethora of state level issues. Many that are still pending — regulations to implement the new Act, possible technical corrections to it, the Obama higher education agenda — will make for an unprecedented number of public policy updates.

At a time when the sector is at its most prosperous, there are more updates to run through than ever, more tactics for staying on track, and more plans for what to do when the economy stabilizes. This fantasy business climate, in other words, will eventually come to an end, but Florida and its themed attractions will keep it surreal no matter what the economic conditions might be in mid-June.

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