... from the chair
President obama placed that bet on community colleges when he set a goal that by 2020, America would graduate 5 million more students and again become the world’s No. 1 producer of skilled college graduates. That challenge became tougher in March when, in a mad dash to pass health care legislation, congressional lawmakers shelved the president’s ambitious American Graduation Initiative (AGI). As we’ve all heard by now, the massive proposal would have supplied nearly $12 billion over
10 years to the nation’s community colleges, largely toward the goal of better training
and college completion rates.
Though the financial boost some expected from AGI might no longer come, the
proposal put community colleges at the center of a national dialogue about higher
education reform. It’s a conversation that has drawn the attention of philanthropic
heavyweights, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation for
Education, and others. Like the Obama administration, these foundations have set goals
for college completion and called on community colleges to help meet the challenge.
Better data systems: We must review
our current data systems to see if they
provide the kind of information we need.
We can build on previous work to identify the gaps we see and establish a new
research agenda that will let us use data
to build strategies for completion.
BY MARY SPILDE
tıme this is our ” “time and again, when we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result. — President obama
Getting there from here
Stronger leadership: We need college
administrators who enjoy working with
faculty—leaders who are willing to hang
out and hang in with faculty as they
engage in this wholesale shift from access
to success. We need leaders who have
the courage to challenge the status quo
and do the work shoulder to shoulder to
build our collective capacity to function
in this new normal.
High-impact practices: The Association
of American Colleges and Universities
has developed a set of high-
impact practices proven to
positively affect learning out-
comes. Most of the research,
however, was conducted at
four-year colleges. As commu-
nity college leaders, we must
build on this work and refine
and adapt these practices for
our own institutions.
These are just a few exam-
ples of the steps necessary to
move the community college completion
agenda forward. This, right now, is our
time. There is much we can do to prepare.
But we must also demand equal rights
for our students so that they can achieve
Define completion: Our open-access model and our methods for measuring completion
are often at odds. While we must do a better job of graduating students,
we must resist the notion of degree completion as the only measure.
Our students seek skills to obtain employment, and they often find
employment prior to earning a degree or certificate—or they transfer to
a four-year school prior to degree completion, or are dually enrolled at
a community college and university. Should the lack of a degree make
a student a failure? I think not. But, absent a coherent definition of
completion developed by community college professionals, the lens of
the university paradigm will be applied to us.
Engage faculty and staff: Placing access and completion at the center of
our work represents a shift for community colleges. Rather than give our
students the freedom to fail, we ask them to embrace the right to succeed. What does
this mean in practice? First, we must engage faculty and staff in the completion discussion. The cultural shift required will not occur in the form of a “top-down” pronouncement. Faculty and staff must engage in personal discussions about how to shape and
influence the definition of completion for every student.
Know thy students: We cannot serve students well by pretending they are all the
same. We have generalities about graduation rates from which we need to disaggregate
our data to more thoroughly analyze who attends our institutions and map their specific progress and barriers to success.
Mary Spilde is AACC Board Chair and
president of Lane Community College in