‘Embed’ and adapt

In Community College Strategy:  The Innovative Leader’s Handbook, Clyne Namuo looks at the challenges facing open-access colleges and urges leaders to “take their rightful place” in our higher education system.

States are cutting funding to community colleges, writes Namuo, who chairs the Computer Information Systems department at Cochise College in Arizona. In response, colleges have asked more of local taxpayers, cut programs and services and raised tuition.

Leaders need to  “embed” their colleges in their local communities, he writes. Building relationships with employers, K-12 districts, civic leaders, hospitals, nearby military installations and others will enable colleges to survive and adapt.

The boundaries between high school, community college, universities and the workforce are blurring, writes John Morton, the University of Hawaii’s vice president for community colleges, in the preface.

In the past, students finished high school, then went to college, then started a job.  Increasingly, they will start taking college classes in high school, then go to community college to start on a well-defined path to a bachelor’s degree. They’ll combine work and education “sometimes in a classroom or laboratory, sometimes online and sometimes on the job.”

Employers: Grads aren’t prepared for work

Most employers say college graduates aren’t prepared for work, reports Bridge That Gap: Analyzing the Student Skill Index, a Chegg survey.  Half of college students said they felt very or completely prepared for work in their field of study. Thirty-nine percent of employers said recent graduates they’d interviewed were well-prepared.

Students overvalue their mastery of “business basics,” according to employers, notes Inside Higher Ed.

Those include “creating a budget or financial goal” and “writing to communicate ideas or explain information clearly” (each show a 22 percentage-point gap), and “organization” (25 percentage points). In the widest gap, at 27 percentage points, 77 percent of students but only half of hiring managers reported preparation for “prioritizing work.”

Students fared the best at “making a decision without having all the facts.” About 47 percent of students said they were prepared to do that, and 37 percent of hiring managers said the same of recent graduates.

More than 90 percent of hiring managers are looking for graduates who’ve shown initiative and leadership. They also look for extracurriculars, internships and work related to applicants’ field of study. Only a third of college graduates have spent time gaining experience in their field.

Chegg also looked at “Office Street Smarts” by asking five questions:

1. Can graduates make a persuasive argument to convince others to adopt their ideas?
2. Can they write to encourage action or make a specific request?
3. Were they able to communicate with authority figures and clients?
4. Can they collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds?
5. Can they complete a project as part of a team?

Again, students “have an over-inflated sense” of their communications and collaboration skills.

STEM graduates were “slightly better prepared” to explain information and solve problems through experimentation, employers said.

Community colleges face leadership crisis

With nearly 75 percent of community college presidents expected to retire by decade’s end, six groups are teaming up to address the leadership crisis, reports Community College Times.

The American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of Community College Trustees, Achieving the Dream, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, the League for Innovation in the Community College and Student Success Initiatives at the University of Texas at Austin​ will work on recruiting, selecting and developing new leaders.

Community colleges need new leaders

More than 40 percent of community college presidents are expected to retire in the next five years. Community colleges need to develop, recruit and hire a new generation of leaders, according to Crisis and Opportunity: Aligning the Community College Presidency with Student Success.

The Aspen Institute and Achieving the Dream (ATD) analyzed the qualities of presidents who lead Aspen Prize winning community colleges and ATD leader colleges:  Effective leaders “create organizational structures, processes and policies aligned—explicitly and aggressively—with student success goals.”

Community colleges will be expected to “produce more degrees of a higher quality at a lower per-student cost to an increasingly diverse population,” the report states.

“We’re facing an urgent leadership challenge that also offers unprecedented opportunity,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. Critical skills of effective leaders display:

* A persistent drive to ensure student success.
* A willingness to take significant risks to advance student success.
* The ability to create lasting change within the college . . by building urgency through the use of data and the bully pulpit, creating strong plans with sustainable strategies, collaborating with and listening to faculty and support staff, and implementing strategies for change that hold faculty and staff accountable for results.
* A strong, broad, strategic vision for the college and its students. It is reflected in its partnerships with K-12 districts, universities and nonprofit organizations.
* A commitment to raise and allocate resources in ways aligned to student success. The best presidents are usually entrepreneurial and consistently strategic in allocating resources.

The president “must first and foremost be an advocate for the student and create a culture where the student is the centerpiece of the institution,” said Jerry Sue Thornton, president of Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio and co-chair of AACC’s 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges.

From April 2012 to April 2013,  more than 140 two-year college presidencies have been filled by first-time CEOs, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).  New community college presidents face many challenges,  AACC President Walter Bumphus  tells Community College Times.

AACC names 25 finalists for excellence awards

Twenty-five community colleges have been named finalists for the Awards of Excellence sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges. Awards will be given in five categories: Emerging Leadership, Student Success, Exemplary CEO or Board, Advancing Diversity and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership.

The finalists and winners will be honored April 23 during the closing brunch of the 2013 AACC Convention in San Francisco.

Bumphus: CCs must limit ‘mission creep’

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.

Connecticut: Buyouts for 2-year-college heads?

All 12 Connecticut community college presidents have been offered buyouts, if they resign by Oct. 31, according to Gena Glickman, president of Manchester Community College. After a state meeting, president were told that those who reject buyouts may be terminated in one year with a less-generous package, Glickman said.

Michael Meotti, the state college system’s executive vice president, said Glickman’s account was inaccurate, reports the Connecticut Mirror. Presidents were offered an “expedited separation process,” if “they could not carry out the directions of the [remedial education] law and the board,” he told the board of regents.

In his email Tuesday to the regents, Meotti said the proposal was put forward because several presidents are resisting implementation of the new state law limiting when students can be forced to take noncredit remedial courses. It is known as SB-40.

However, Barbara Douglass of Northwestern Community College, told the Mirror that all 12 presidents “have been offered a buyout,” and it was “made clear we’re on the chopping block if we don’t accept.”

 “President Glickman’s account of the meeting was accurate,” said Douglass. “The other presidents are not coming forward because of fear and intimidation. I am coming forward because I feel one of my colleagues is being held out to dry.”

Steven Weinberger, the director of human resources for the regents, did not bring up the remedial education law when he offered buyouts to the 12 presidents, Douglass said. “All that was mentioned was the need for change in leadership.”

Mentoring helps GED students persist

Students who never made it through high school usually don’t make it through community college. But Florida’s Santa Fe College is improving the odds through a mentoring program for GED students called Pathways to Persistence.

Fifty-five percent of GED students drop out of community college in their first year, Pathways founder Angela Long tells Community College Times.

Pathways offers support through hand-picked mentors—Long chooses a match based on initial scholar interviews—who range from professors to administrators or other college staff, plus a crew of volunteer peers from college organizations for tutoring assistance.

. . . “The goal is to make GED students feel so special that they have an impact on the country and to give them a voice to tell us what is working in education, what has failed them, and how we can make it better,” Long says.

. . . Mentors meet with assigned mentees at least once a week the first month of the program, and every other week thereafter, following assigned topics that include how to pick classes and talk about financial assistance. Mentees also attend a weekly 3-credit course in the fall semester and attend leadership seminars and luncheons with key SFC members.

Thirty students started in last fall and another 20 joined in spring 2012. More than half earned a 3.0 GPA or higher.

City College of SF faces closure threat

Plagued by weak leadership and budget deficits, California’s largest community college, City College of San Francisco, may lose accreditation and face closure in eight months, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.  The “show cause” order by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools is more serious than probation. Without accreditation, City College’s 90,000 students wouldn’t be eligible for federal financial aid, causing the nine-campus college to fold.

College leaders vow to stay open, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. But they’ll have to balance the budget — the college has been running deficits for three years — in a year of high financial uncertainty. While many blame state  budget cuts for the CCSF’s problems, only two other community colleges in the state face similar financial troubles, the commission said.

The accrediting team said the college’s problems were structural: failing to live within its means, ignoring a growing retiree health obligation, and paring administration to skeletal levels.

To improve budgeting and planning, City College needs more administrators, the commission found.  With only 39 administrators and more than 1,800 faculty members, City College finds it hard to make decisions.

“There exists a veil of distrust among governance groups that manifests itself as an indirect resistance to board and administrative decision-making authority,” says the report, which points to a confusing structure in which everyone – chancellor, vice chancellors, faculty, staff and students – has a say.

“The team did not find evidence of clearly delineated roles and authority for decision making, thereby hindering timely communication, decisions and results,” the report said.

City College’s “shared governance” system includes faculty, administrators, staff and students in advisory roles, reports the Chronicle.

“Let’s say I have an idea to change the grading system,” said math instructor Hal Huntsman, former president of the Faculty Senate. “I have to start four or five levels down from where the decision gets made. The authority is at the Board of Trustees. But down from that, there are councils. Down from that, there are committees. Then subcommittees.”

City College “is probably too big to fail,” predicts Inside Higher Ed. “Most of those students would have no other local option, and the rest of the state’s community colleges could hardly absorb them, anyhow, given that the system will turn away an estimated 200,000 students this year because of financial shortfalls.”

But nobody’s sure the trustees will remain in charge if they can’t turn around the college by next spring.

Belittling buzzwords

Playing Buzzword Bingo at a community-college faculty meeting reveals what leaders really think of their faculty, writes Rob Jenkins.

For example, some administrators see the faculty as a “team.”

 If we are a team, does that mean the leader is our coach? And if so, are we, therefore, utterly accountable to him or her alone? What if one individual doesn’t go along with the team? Might he or she be cut? After all, there is no “I” in “team.”

. . .  teams are almost always dictatorships. Benevolent, perhaps, but dictatorships nonetheless. The coach always has the last word, and divergence from the team concept is punished swiftly and surely.

Even worse is the word “family,” Jenkins writes. “If we’re a family, then who is the parent? And what happens to us if we’re bad?”

When a college leader calls himself a “change agent,”  it means “change for the sake of change,” Jenkin writes. “Beginning with the assumption that nobody knew what they were doing before you showed up is a slap in the face to all those who preceded you, including faculty.”

What’s your least favorite buzzword?