By Paul Bradley
Community College Week
ORLANDO, Fla – The American Association of Community Colleges has issued a list of ambitious goals to help its 1,200 member colleges prosper in an era of heightened expectations and diminished financial resources.
Opening its 92nd annual convention a short distance from the AACC outlined the recommendations of its 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, a 38-member panel which has meeting for the nearly the past year to devise ways to meet the Obama Administration’s goal of adding 5 million degree- or certificate-holders by 2020.
“We need to completely reimagine community colleges for today and the future,” said Walter G. Bumphus, AACC’s president and CEO. “It is important that college graduates be not just globally competitive but globally competent, understanding their roles as citizens and workers in an international context. In today’s knowledge economy, intellectual capital is a nation’s greatest, most renewable resource.”
The commission began its work with a two-fold charge: to safeguard the fundamental open-access mission of community colleges, while at he same time embracing a new future based on student success.
The commission called on colleges to:
* Increase completion rates by 50 percent by 2020 while preserving access and narrowing achievement gaps associate with race, gender and income.
* Reduce by half the number of students who enter college unprepared for college level work and doubling the number of students who successfully complete developmental courses.
* Close the country’s skills gap by ensuring that career and technical education prepares students for current and future jobs.
* Refocus the community college mission to meet 21st Century education and workforce needs.
* Boost collaboration among and colleges and with partners in philanthropy, government and the private sector to boost support for community colleges.
* Create new financial incentives for both students and colleges, and improve public support of the colleges.
* Implement policies and practices that promote rigor, transparency and accountability for results in community colleges.
“This report is intended to be a bold roadmap, a working document, for community colleges to use as they implement these recommendations,” Bumphus said. The AACC plans to establish a 21st Century Center to help colleges with planning, leadership development and research.
The report comes at a critical time for American higher education. The country has slipped to 16th in college completion rates among 25- to 34-year olds. At the same time, by 2018, nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require some kind of post-secondary academic credential.
The educational gaps have potentially dire consequences for the American middle class, already under pressure by slow wage growth, job outsourcing and government policies tilted toward the well-to-do. The report said that community colleges are critical to preserving and growing the middle class. But meeting the challenge will require colleges to dramatically redesign their missions and the student educational experiences, the report said.