... IN THIS ISSUE
Rhetoric Reality vs.
“Economic engines” … “open doors to opportunity” … “the best investment in the future.” Over the past few years, com- munity colleges have received a heady—and uncommon— amount of public recognition and praise. It’s a far cry from author Tom Peters’ description more than a decade ago that
limned our colleges as “the unsung, underfunded backbone of higher education.”
Though accolades have accumulated and enrollments have surged, funding has not.
Now the question is, given the current economic environment, can community colleges
meet the challenge thrust upon them? Simply put, does the reality match the rhetoric?
Challenge is nothing new to community colleges, and it has become a cliché to say
our institutions do more with less. Whether that propensity is our strongest asset or
our Achilles’ heel remains to be seen, but few dispute that innovation and ingenuity are
among our colleges’ defining characteristics.
As we celebrate the 90th year of the American Association of Community Colleges
(AACC) and try to envision an evolving community college of the future, the Journal
invited some of the field’s most respected thought leaders to examine ways community
colleges might begin to reinvent themselves. Reinvention, and how some leaders are
working to achieve it, is the focus of an article by leadership guru John E. Roueche and
co-author Barbara Jones-Kavalier (“Reimagining the Community College,” p. 30), who
point to creativity as a central strength in community college reform.
In “Meeting the Challenge” (p. 22), authors Corey Murray and Ellen Ullman report
it likely will take a lot more than creative—or, as critics charge, wishful—thinking to
meet President Obama’s challenge to educate an additional 5 million students in the
The president’s charge is especially daunting in light of recent findings by the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation that only 38 percent of community college students currently leave college with a credential. The foundation’s co-chair, Melinda French Gates,
provides a rare Q&A focused on how two of the world’s most influential philanthropists
view “the completion agenda” (“Raising the Bar on College Completion,” p. 18).
Of those who do earn credentials, few are more in demand than allied health professionals and nurses. These are career fields in which community colleges educate close
to 60 percent of health care workers. Emerging public-health careers will be in high
demand, according to AACC Health Policy Director Roxanne Fulcher; U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services Public Health System, Finance, and Quality Program
Director Peggy Honoré; and health policy educators Brenda Kirkwood and Richard
Riegelman of The George Washington University (“Ready for Prime Time,” p. 44), who
chart a number of prototype public health programs for which community colleges can
assume a leading role.
No matter what field of study a community college student attempts, the first-year
experience is critical, says Angela Oriano-Darnall, who cites a national report from the
Survey of Entering Student Engagement that identifies six proven elements in helping
first-year students persist and succeed (“Year One,” p. 5 8).
EXECU TIVE EDITOR Norma Kent
MANAGING EDITOR Corey Murray
ART DIREC TOR Brian Rees
PROJEC T MANAGER Jerry Parks
CONTRIBUTING Mary Spilde
WRITERS George R. Boggs
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