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Community Colleges

Tom Snyder

In the 1970s, I began what was three decades in the automotive industry. It was a good place to be. U.S. automakers had enjoyed decades of growth and profitability, and it seemed like history would continue to repeat itself. Well, we all know what happened next. U.S. automakers grew somewhat complacent, seeming to take their good fortune for granted. As concepts like competition, market share and customer service received little attention, innovation stalled.

A student speaking with her advisor

Community colleges have always been a popular place for students to begin their higher education career. Often smaller, closer, and more affordable than their four-year counterparts, they can help students get accustomed to college-level work or simply save on tuition. The national goal of producing more college graduates has increased the focus on ensuring students actually transfer on. Keith Coates, a student services advisor at Columbus State Community College, Delaware Campus (Ohio), reports that they’re seeing a lot of students who want to transfer but may not know to where.

Veterans returning to civilian life will find it easier to get education and employment with a new “memorandum of understanding” between California Community Colleges (CCC) and the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet).

It’s a simple idea for community colleges that sounds almost archaic: Check the help wanted ads and shape programs around available jobs. In practice, the idea involves new, sophisticated “spidering” and artificial intelligence technologies that can aggregate and analyze online job ads, providing a comprehensive source of information. A Jobs for the Future report published this fall explores the options and how the analysis is being done by a handful of colleges and states.

The regional demand for quality nursing professionals was the impetus behind a new partnership between Blinn College (Texas) and the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing. Blinn’s associate’s degree in nursing program is undergoing a curriculum revision to clarify mutually accepted courses, which will allow a smoother transition to the TAMHSC baccalaureate program.

Many people probably only think about Napa when they’re thinking about wine. And while the Napa Valley of California does have world-class grapes, it’s also home to a huge population of Mexican immigrant laborers responsible for this wine behind the scenes—and their undocumented children looking for an education.

“Many of [these students] have been here the greater period of their life,” says Oscar de Haro, vice president for student services at Napa Valley College. “They reflect the values of Napa, the workforce of Napa.”

Warren Nichols, former president of Volunteer State Community College (Tenn.), began a new role as Tennessee Board of Regents’ Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges October 1. He is overseeing a unified system created for the 13 community colleges across Tennessee. The consolidated system will allow for more effective and

Community colleges have long been seen as a good place for students to brush up on their skills before tackling college-level course work. The state legislatures in Ohio and Tennessee have recently decided to have public four-year institutions get out of the developmental ed game as much as possible, and leave those classes to the experts.

One of the more dubious notions to attach itself to higher education is the brash “right to fail.” While the intent to demand maturity and accountability from college students is understandable, the reality, and certainly the wisdom of such an axiom, is another story.

First, the reality: Prior to World War II, the likelihood of attending college was reserved for the children of wealthy or near-wealthy families. These students were expected to succeed, whether they did or not. 

Leaders from 16 community colleges around the country gathered at the White House in September to participate in a roundtable discussion on the role community colleges play in America. The discussion was part of the Obama administration’s Champions of Change program, a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. Education Gateways recently spoke to four of the Champions of Change honorees about the challenges and opportunities they face as presidents of their institutions.

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