Bumpy Road

New Academic Year Has Colleges Seeking Smooth Spots in a Bumpy Road

By Pamela Barrett
Community College Week

Community College Week began the 2009-10 academic year reporting that community colleges were giddy with the prospect that $12 billion in new federal funding would be coming their way. Included with that message was the presidential mandate to increase degrees earned at community colleges by 5 million over the next decade. In that same Academic Kickoff edition, there was a cautionary note in Steve Katsinas’ Point of View piece. But colleges remained hopeful even in the face of unprecedented increases in fall enrollment. There was a prevailing “Yes, we can” attitude.

For our part, CCWeek began the last academic year by identifying new goals to streamline delivery of information to our readers while anticipating a speedy recovery from the downturn that had affected all aspects of American economic life. We made changes, added new features and began plans to revise ccweek.com. Readers can now find a new tab on our website that brings our community college calendar of events to the forefront, plus new features allowing direct access to our special reports and a reader response feature under “It’s Your Turn.” Like the colleges we cover, there have been some unexpected bumps along the way, but we are now closer to achieving many of the goals we set for ccweek.com, if a few months behind schedule .

But the loss of $10 billion in expected funding when Congress finally passed the Higher Education Opportunity Act is likely perceived by community colleges as much more than a “bump” in the road. Their rush to renew efforts at the beginning of this academic year defines the indomitable spirit that has prevailed at our community and technical colleges for all the years they have existed. They will undoubtedly continue to devise mission-focused learning systems that remediate, educate, matriculate, and reeducate students in order to retool a suffering American workforce. And this will be attempted with one-sixth of the original anticipated funding, but all of the mandates.

In this new academic year CCWeek will be covering the new world order of economics and community colleges. We are on our way, entering our 23rd year of telling the stories — reporting the changes, advances and set backs. In the process, we will be back on schedule for revamping the website (hopefully taking less time than it took the Associated Press Stylebook to decide that most of the world has one common noun, “website,” not the two words “Web site,” for the place on where we put our pages on the Internet.)

We anticipate that community colleges also will be making a herculean effort to meet the greater challenges Washington has set before them. Their history bears that out. They are no strangers to unfunded mandates.

– This article also appeared in the Aug. 23, 2010 issue of Community College Week


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