technicians, auto mechanics, registered
nurses, and others.
Land Grant College
Two-year colleges make ideal partners to help achieve
the original goals of their four-year counterparts
BY DERIONNE POLLARD
When you see the words “land grant institution,” perhaps you visualize a place like my alma mater, Iowa State University. I always did, until I spoke with a colleague about the future of his university, a land grant institution that has become a major research presence. And it hit me: Community colleges are the reimagined, 21st-century
version of the original land grant institutions.
As a graduate of a land grant institution, I have tremendous respect for
the significance and value of the institutions that grew out of the Morrill
Act. They now sit on the cutting edge of research, scholarship, and innovation; they are responsible for the infrastructure of our great country.
But, I would argue that as they build infrastructure and develop new
technologies and innovations to move our country forward, original land
grant institutions must have a partner. Community colleges are the natural choice to take up the land grant mantle. Our institutions are urgently
needed to prepare the workforce—from biotech lab bench workers to
nurses to engineers—instrumental to supporting the country’s infrastructure and, in doing so, helping rebuild the American middle class.
Community colleges are now being asked to play a role similar to the one envi-
sioned for land grant institutions: to prepare the workforce, to speak to concerns
about a system of higher education that is sometimes seen as unresponsive, and to
ensure that the American dream of opportunity remains within reach for everyone.
Many of the circumstances that necessitated the initial 19th-century land grant
movement are recurring in the 21st century. Even in today’s struggling economy,
there still exists a need for trained workers.
National Skills Coalition data indicate a skills gap for middle-skill jobs, which
account for the largest share of America’s labor market, including civil engineering
What Sets Us Apart
At the heart of the community college lies
our ability to connect and to be relevant
to the communities we serve. We know
our students and our business community. We partner with K– 12 schools and
baccalaureate-granting institutions. We
also know that for many of our students,
we are their only affordable option.
What does a reimagined land grant
college look like? How do we reflect our
community? Montgomery College (MC)
in Maryland, where I serve as president,
is a good example.
Last year, our three-campus institution outside
of Washington, D.C., enrolled
more than 60,000 students in
credit and noncredit education and workforce training
programs. There is no majority race at MC. Our cultural
and ethnic diversity is a point
of pride, with students from
more than 170 countries.
Like many Americans, our
students often struggle financially. Last
year, 7,200 of our students received Pell
Grants, the largest source of need-based
financial aid. The amount of financial aid
to students increased 100 percent in the
last five years, a figure that reflects the
increasing financial need of our students.
Our job as community colleges is to help
our students—no matter their income—
develop the knowledge, confidence, and
determination to change their lives.