Community colleges play a vital role in educating people of all ages across our country. Enrollments are increasing as people look to gain new skills in our changing and challenging economy. Those seeking a four year degree are often beginning their educations at their local community college. They know they can receive quality education at a much lower price. At the same time community colleges are facing challenges such as decreased state funding, and the need to provide services and scholarships not covered by funds from state government allocations or federal grants.
We wanted to know more about community college trends and so we reached out to Robert “Bobby” McDonald, a member of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. If you have met Bobby you won’t forget him! He began his education at a community college – Los Angeles Harbor College – and is a strong advocate for community colleges.
Saad & Shaw – What are current and emerging trends within community colleges?
Bobby McDonald – I really believe the most critical trend is understanding that the usual sources of income have dried up. Funding from federal and state, due to our current financial climate, will force community colleges to seek that innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. Community colleges will have to revamp and outreach in the community, both public and private, to garner resources. It’s no longer business as usual. Outside sources of revenue will be needed for program development, athletics and scholarships. Community colleges will have to build stronger relationships and partnerships while securing stronger relevance, like the four year institutions, especially in the fundraising arena.
Saad & Shaw – What is the profile of California’s community college student?
McDonald – The profile of California community college students is as varied and diverse as the 112 campus system. The 2.9 million students range from high school students using the community college for additional classes or AP courses; to the returning veteran’s reintegration process with education, career technical support and adjustment; to the laid-off worker or career changing individual who is seeking a necessary skill set change. The age group is from 17 to 68, more women than men, but very, very multicultural, cross-cultural and diversified, similar to the make up of our communities.
Saad & Shaw – What do you envision as the future role of community colleges?
McDonald: The mission of the California Community College’s Board of Governor’s is “Empowering Community Colleges through Leadership, Advocacy and Support.” During these difficult financial times, the Board will play a significant role for the future, especially maintaining the precepts and enhancing the mission. We are forced to review, revise and re-evaluate the way we go to market. Key issues such as basic skills, transfer, career technical training, counseling, and graduating are paramount. As we look into the upcoming “Green Era,” major corporations are already investing in the community colleges to begin to train and educate students for these jobs. We will always be there for that second chance, for that new wave of technology and more importantly, for that student or employer that needs that special training or help with training.