Redesign, reinvent and reset

Community colleges must “redesign, reinvent and reset” themselves, concludes Reclaiming the American Dream, a report for the American Association of Community Colleges by the the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges. “We need to completely reimagine community colleges for today and the future,” said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, AACC’s president and CEO.

The dream is at risk, the report warns.

What we find today are student success rates that are unacceptably low, employment preparation that is inadequately connected to job market needs, and disconnects in transitions between high schools, community colleges, and baccalaureate institutions. Community colleges, historically underfunded, also have been financed in ways that encourage enrollment growth, though frequently without adequately  supporting that growth, and largely without incentives for promoting student success.

Community colleges must make “hard choices” about priorities and the most effective use of limited resources, the report concludes. While community colleges should remain open to all, the mission must be expanded to include success as well as access.

Access without support for student success is an empty promise. If the door is to remain open, virtually everything else must change.

“Community colleges are not funded at a level permitting them to perform the monumental tasks expected of them,” the report finds. However, it’s not likely that will change, so colleges must “make better use of the resources they have.”  Funding must be linked to measures of success in addition to enrollment.

The report calls for increasing completion rates by 50 percent by 2020, working with high schools to reduce by half the number of unprepared student, doubling success rates for developmental students and focusing career and technical education on the 21st-century workplace. In addition, it urges community colleges to redefine their mission, mobilize private and public support and “implement policies and practices that promote rigor, transparency, and accountability for results.”

AACC will establish the 21stCentury Center to help colleges with strategic planning, leadership development and research to reach the goals.