The federal government, nonprofit
foundations, states, and many colleges
have attempted to carve out a piece
of this emerging completion agenda.
There are more than a dozen major
national initiatives—some supported
with millions of dollars unheard of in
the community college world and some
supported by key national partnerships
that recognize the community college
as a major player in American society.
This fairly recent focus on the comple-
tion agenda represents a tectonic shift
in the community college zeitgeist
extending from the White House to
• Anne Arundel Community College
in Maryland launched an initiative
to double the number of degree,
certificate, and workforce credential
recipients by 2020.
It is unlikely that any community
college or educational institution
will be untouched by the completion
agenda. All these initiatives are de-
signed to scale up across other institu-
tions and across states; all are designed
to influence colleges and policymak-
ers to support the goal of improved
completion rates. There has never been
the pitfalls; they fully understand
that cynicism is the sidekick of failed
promises. They know our limitations,
yet they persevere—because the cause
is good and the cause is right.
national organizations and foundations, states, and individual community
• President Obama has challenged
community colleges to produce an additional 5 million graduates by 2020.
• Six national community college
organizations, led by the American
Association of Community Colleges
and the Association of Community
College Trustees, signed “A Call
to Action,” charging community
colleges with producing 50 percent
more students with high-quality
degrees and certificates by 2020.
• Lumina Foundation established its
Big Goal of increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality
degrees and credentials to 60 percent
• The Virginia State Board for Community Colleges approved a strategic
plan that calls for a 50 percent boost
in the number of students graduating, transferring to four-year institutions, or completing a workforce
a movement in the community college
world so widely joined and supported
by such deep pockets. The completion
agenda is, indeed, a tectonic shift.
In almost all cases, the focus is on
students who are underprepared, underrepresented, or from low economic
backgrounds. There is an urgency—an
imperative—to move students through
the system with increased speed and
To What End?
If these and other completion-agenda
initiatives prove successful, the
outcome will be significant for our students and society; the survival of our
democracy might well depend on them.
We’re fortunate in that these initia-
tives are led by some of the most
able community college leaders in
the nation, men and women who are
deeply committed to the core values
of the community college. They have
been well seasoned by years of herding
reform efforts through community
college pastures. They are aware of
if the agenda is too narrowly focused, if
there are sufficient resources, if college
leaders are willing and able to deliver.
They wrestle with the following issues: