Community colleges nationwide increasingly are being called on to play a major role in the effort to increase the number of Americans with a college degree or credential—and to do so at an affordable cost.
Community colleges are undergoing a transformation and stand “front and center” in the drive to develop the workforce the United States needs to remain globally competitive, said Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, the moderator of an ACE Annual Meeting session Monday afternoon examining the evolving role of community colleges.
McCallin and a panel of two other community college leaders and the head of a San Antonio industry-higher education partnership examined some of the innovative strategies being adopted to meet the heightened expectations placed on two-year institutions.
Brice W. Harris, chancellor of the California Community College System, who oversees 112 colleges and 2.1 million students, noted that a Student Success Task Force has issued a series of recommendations aimed at helping meet goals such as increasing college and career readiness, strengthening support for entering students and improving the education of basic skills students.
Steven L. VanAusdle, president of Walla Walla (WA) Community College, said his institution has raised the overall graduate rate to 54 percent, well above the national community college average of a 40 percent graduation rate within three years, and also achieved other measures of success including increasing the rate of underrepresented minorities enjoying student success. But the ambitious goal is an 80 percent completion rate, and developing economic development-oriented initiatives such as one that is helping build a regional wine industry.
And Gene Bowman, executive director of Alamo Academies in San Antonio, TX, a partnership of Alamo Colleges, area industries , school districts and local communities, described a set of initiatives designed to enable more San Antonio high school students to graduate already armed with college credits and with the experience of paid internships and exposure to occupations that require a college education.
McCallin noted that while there are great expectations for the role community colleges will play in creating a new labor force, that comes at a time of marginal resources to make those gains.