NACCE: Navigating New Educational Terrain

By Paul Bradley, Editor, Community College Week

Community colleges need to be more creative, more entrepreneurial than ever before. Today’s quickly changing higher educational landscape demands it.

            That was the message given loud and clear this morning to about 500 educators attending the annual conference of the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship being held in Charlotte, N.C.

            Whether it’s shrinking public support, increased competition from for-profit colleges or the rise of technical innovations like MOOCs, community colleges face a landscape where competition is fierce and the status quo will no longer do.

            But breaking free can be difficult, said Matt Reed, vice president for academic affairs at Holyoke Community Colleges (Mass.). The hidebound traditions of the academy often conflict with the imperative to confront a new reality.

            “There is much more competition than there used to be,” he said, adding: “There are people who are invested in maintaining tradition, so that becomes a difficult balancing act.”

            In some respects, though, community colleges are well-placed to navigate this changing educational terrain, said Angeline Godwin, president of Patrick Henry Community College (Va.).

            “We have always been entrepreneurial,” she said. “We are the great American innovators and entrepreneurs. We just haven’t always had the courage to pronounce ourselves as such.”

            The theme of the conference is “Entrepreneurship: Fueling the Local Economic Engine,” a not-so-subtle reference to Charlotte’s prominent place in NASCAR racing. Educators from around the country expect to go back to their campuses with ideas for boosting their own local economies.”


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