As I proudly—and gratefully— begin the year as chair of the AACC Board of Directors, I am reminded of an unusual fact.
In 1967, when I joined the English faculty
at Prince George’s Community College
(Maryland), I—along with many others
like me—became a pioneer as the community college movement spread across
the country. Now 50 years later, as the
president of the Community College of
Baltimore County, I fiercely embrace the
spirit of becoming a pioneer once again
as America’s community colleges retool
for the 21st century.
In 1967 we were academic innovators, creating a new form of higher education with the metaphoric equivalent
of duct tape, bobby pins and chewing
gum. We since have matured into a
powerful sector that serves 12 million
students a year. Each one of those 12
million deserves the best education and
training we can offer, equipping them
to meet the challenges of this century
rather than the last.
This is not merely a matter of adapting 1970s processes and practices to a
computer. Instead, we face the challenge
of creating cutting-edge currency in
everything we do: curriculum, facilities, equipment, institutional systems
and faculty/staff expertise. We must do
the hard things necessary to make this
happen as gently as we can – not only
to reduce the human collateral sometimes associated with rightsizing, but to
understand that for most of us there will
be no new money, unless we find a way to
generate it ourselves.
Does this mean higher education is
in crisis? I say a resounding NO. We are
in motion, rapidly hurtling toward some
new point of stasis that differs vastly
from the one that shaped the community college in the last century.
For those of us who must lead this
transformation, there are several
challenges. First, we must continue to
embrace and celebrate the magic of our
open-door mission, while simultane-
ously ensuring that the equity equation
remains a fixed part of this “access to
success” matrix. Second, in an era of
acute enrollment decline, rightsizing
our institutions to a size appropri-
ate to our resources is of paramount
importance. We must be creative in our
quest for cost-savings, engaging people
who are most impacted by tightening
budgets into thoughtful conversations
to find solutions. Third, launching a
serious review of internal processes,
systems and products throughout the
institution will serve to strengthen
and improve both content and delivery,
while bringing economic stability to
As AACC prepares to celebrate its
100th year in 2020, I am proud to serve as
AACC Board Chair. More than any other
sector of higher education, it is the community college that America turns to for
post secondary credentials. Every day we
earn our stripes as democracy’s colleges.
This is our mission. This is who we are.
This is who we serve.
And I ask you, as I ask myself, if
we do not support these students, who
will? The answer lies in our resilience,
flexibility and motivation. Just as we
have grown, progressed and advanced to
meet the changing demands of students
through decades past, so will we rise to
meet the developmental, academic and
career training needs of students today
and into the future.
Sandra L. Kurtinitis is president of Community College of
Baltimore County and chair of the AACC Board of Directors.
Sandra L. Kurtinitis
DIREC TOR OF PUBLICATIONS
Sandra L. Kurtinitis
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