Community College Trends Examined at Conference - Higher Education

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Community College Trends Examined at Conference

by Valerie Menard

AUSTIN, Tex. — Two venerated community college leaders, Dr. John E. Roueche, the Sid W. Richardson Regents Chair in Community College Leadership at the University of Texas at Austin, and Dr. George Boggs, the president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), took the stage Tuesday at the National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) annual conference to reflect on teaching objectives in community colleges.

 Taking inspiration from artist and educator Amado Peña, the session entitled “Conversations with Amado’s Friends: Lessons from Legends: Leadership and Learning” included an award presentation to Boggs, the 2010 Amado M. Peña, Jr. Journey of Excellence Award recipient. The award recognizes the generous contributions of individuals and organizations as mentors and advocates for students of all ages.

 Known for his groundbreaking work that has promoted community colleges as learning rather than teaching institutions, Boggs spoke about the changing national shift in attitudes toward students.

 “Teachers believed that students had the right to fail and we were only there to provide an opportunity to learn. Now we accept responsibility for whether or not our students are learning,” he said.

 Subsequently, the focus on student learning outcomes has captivated higher education across the board, according to Boggs.

 Roueche added that the popular conception that every student can learn remains under critical scrutiny by educators and others who counter that not every child is born with the same learning skills.

 “What we’ve learned is that what we’re talking about is hard work. It requires better tracking of students and asks faculty to define learning outcomes from what they teach,” he said.

 Continuing with the theme of the future of community colleges, the session, “Key Trends and Innovative Practices in Community Colleges,” featured moderator Dr. Gerardo de los Santos, president and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College. Panelists included Dr. Terry Calaway, president of Johnson County Community College in Kansas and Dr. Steven Johnson, president and CEO of Sinclair Community College in Ohio.

 De los Santos began the session by listing community college trends identified in League research.

 • With the economic downturn and funding initiatives by the Obama administration, community colleges are receiving more attention, which will mean more transparency from colleges and college systems.

• Student success has become the new focus but education advocates urge that it should not be done at the expense of access.

• Leadership at the community college is transitioning with an expected dip in the number of administrators due to retirement.

• The need for fundraising will increase and community college CEOs will be expected to meet this growing need.

• National foundations consider community colleges a funding priority.

• Developmental education needs among students will continue to rise.

 Sorting through these trends, Calaway and Johnson offered that working with K-12 students in a proactive manner to anticipate and address future student needs has proven worthwhile.  

 “Community colleges must attend to service learning, teaching, administration trusteeship and community needs to be effective,” said Johnson. “A university will study a problem. Community colleges roll up their sleeves and get to work.”

 Seeking “the best and brightest” students to recruit, the University of Texas System initiated a partnership with community colleges to create a feeder program. In the “Presidents Promote Partnerships for the Transfer Pathway” session, community college and university partners from east and south Texas shared their experiences.

 “You have to dump the competitive,” asserted Dr. Rod Mabry, president of the University of Texas at Tyler. “Transfer students are already vetted. They push incoming freshmen and the freshmen push the transfer students to succeed.”

 Allowing a presence on campus for each partner was also effective and distinguishing the services that a community college and university provide was also important.

 “There may be resistance in the beginning; it’s important to adopt a strategic plan,” said Dr. Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College.

 “Openness and direct communication between the two, is also essential,” said Dr. Chuck Sorber, former president of the University of Texas-Pan American.

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