Community College Advocacy Group Notes Shortcomings, Makes Recommendations

Written by  //  04/26/2012  //  College News  //  2 Comments

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AACC sees America’s economic leadership at stake.

The American Association of Community Colleges is the leading advocacy group for community colleges, an organization representing more than 1,200 two-year associate degree granting institutions and more than 13 million college students. The AACC recently finished a study of the community college system and found numerous shortcomings. In its related report, the AACC made seven recommendations to “redesign, reinvent and reset” community colleges, acknowledging that the current arrangement is falling short while offering a new road map to success.

Reimagining Community Colleges

Specifically, the report advises that students’ educational experiences be redesigned, that institutional roles be reinvented and that the entire community college system be reset in a bid to develop “partnerships and incentives for student and institutional success.”

“We need to completely reimagine community colleges for today and the future,” said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, AACC’s president and CEO, who commissioned the report. “It is important that college graduates be not just globally competitive but also 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 natural resource.”

Student Success Rates

Bumphus added that low student success rates and complaints from employers that students are not being properly prepared for employment are problems that must be addressed. The AACC pointed out that underinvestment in higher education threatens the country’s global economic leadership, shrinks the middle class and even affects the American dream, one that offers the promise of upward mobility for succeeding generations.

To put higher education back on its feet, the Commission made the following seven recommendations and offered related implementation strategies with each:

1. Increase completion rates of community college credentials (certificates and associate degrees) by 50 percent by 2020, while preserving access, enhancing quality, and eradicating attainment gaps associated with income, race, ethnicity, and gender.

2. Dramatically improve college readiness: by 2020, reduce by half the numbers of students entering college unprepared for rigorous college-level work, and double the rate of students who complete developmental education programs and progress to successful completion of related freshman-level courses.

3. Close the American skills gaps by sharply focusing career and technical education on preparing students with the knowledge and skills required for existing and future jobs in regional and global economies.

4. Refocus the community college mission and redefine institutional roles to meet 21st-century educational and employment needs.

5. Invest in support structures to serve multiple community colleges through collaboration among institutions and with partners in philanthropy, government and the private sector.

6. Target public and private investments strategically to create new incentives for educational institutions and their students and to support community college efforts to reclaim the American Dream.

7. Implement policies and practices that promote rigor, transparency, and accountability for results in community colleges.

Report Backing and Writers

The report was issued as part of the AACC’s 21st-Century Initiative, designed to help colleges prepare to welcome an additional 5 million students to their campuses. Such students must be equipped to obtain the degrees, certificates or credentials needed to compete in the work force by 2020. Backing for the report was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, ACT, and the Educational Testing Service. The writers of the report included Augustine “Augie” Gallego, chancellor emeritus, San Diego Community College District; Kay McClenney, director, Center for Community College Student Engagement, The University of Texas at Austin; and Jerry Sue Thornton, president, Cuyahoga Community College.

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