Community colleges are doing more with less, writes Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, in Community College Week. But there are limits to what the hard-pressed system can do well.
The fundamental question in analyzing the ever-evolving mission of the community college is, “where do we draw the line?” Prepare students for transfer? Check. Deliver a skilled workforce? Check. Provide lifelong learning and community service? Count on the community’s college. Now some states are making our colleges the linchpin in plans to deliver more baccalaureate completers — the $10,000 proposition that governors in Texas and Florida are making political hay by promoting.
But does that mission need to be redefined? One of the key recommendations in a report by the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of the Community College was to “refocus the community college mission and redefine institutional roles to meet 21st-century education and employment needs.”
In sum, the commissioners stressed the need to add the word “no,” as in “no longer,” to the community college vocabulary and to put energies and resources into only those activities that will reinvent the learning experience.
Community colleges also need to develop new leaders for the future, writes Bumphus. It’s estimated 70 percent of community college presidents will retire in the next 10 years.