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By Paul Bradley  /  
2011 July 12 - 12:00 am

Commission Will Take New Look At Community College Mission

WASHINGTON — Community colleges are preparing to take a fresh look at their broad and growing mission with the naming this week of the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges.

Appointed by the American Association of Community Colleges, the commission is made up of 36 members, including some of the nation’s leading community college experts.. The group will work to examine the challenges and opportunities confronting the nation’s largest and fastest-growing higher education sector.

The commission is the brainchild of AACC president Walter G. Bumphus, who has lead AACC since January and has been traveling around the country on a community college “listening tour.”

Earlier this year, Bumphus announced that the commission would be headed by three co-chairs: San Diego Community College District Chancellor Emeritus Augustine Gallego; Cuyahoga Community College president Jerry Sue Thornton; and Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement and former chief operating officer for the Education Commission of the States.

“We have very intentionally selected commissioners who bring diverse viewpoints and backgrounds,” Bumphus said in a news release. “That includes a few friendly critics who have consistently challenged community colleges to increase accountability and improve student outcomes.”

Over the next 10 months, the commission will meet in person and virtually to examine the community college mission in light of current economic realities. President Obama has challenged community colleges to educate an additional 5 million students with degrees, certificates or other credentials by 2020, at a time when states are cutting spending on higher education. The first commission meeting will be held Aug. 12 in Washington, D.C.

“We do not intend to be timid or superficial in confronting the hard choices and need for innovative thinking our leaders face in the coming decades,” Bumphus said. “We will focus the collective intellect of the commission on such issues as use of disruptive technologies to speed learning and the redesign of structures, calendars and processes to better match the needs of our increasingly diverse student population. We will also not shy from criticism.”

Community colleges currently enroll nearly 12 million full- and part-time students, close to half of all U.S. undergraduates. The lingering recession and persistently high unemployment rates have pushed enrollments upward by double digits over the last three years. Families seeking lower college costs and workers seeking new skills continue to flock to community colleges. Leading policy makers have called the colleges critical to the country’s economic recovery.

The new commission marks the third such effort to realign the community college mission to reflect national needs and changing times. The Truman Commission (1947) challenged higher education to provide universal access based on its belief that then-junior colleges could broaden and further democratize their mission by becoming community colleges. Four decades later, the AACC Futures Commission (1988) set forward a reform agenda designed to strengthen the comprehensive mission the Truman Commission originally proposed.

Members of the commission include, in addition to Bumphus:

J. Noah Brown, president & CEO, Association of Community College Trustees; Kenneth P. Burke, trustee, St. Petersburg College (Fla.); Gerardo E. de los Santos, president & CEO, League for Innovation in the Community College; Myrtle E. B. Dorsey, chancellor, St. Louis Community College District; Peter T. Ewell, vice president, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (Boulder, Colo.); Bernadine Chuck Fong, senior managing partner, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; and Marie Foster Gnage, president, West Virginia University, Parkersburg.

Also, Allen Goben, president, Heartland Community College (Ill.); Kati Haycock, director, the Education Trust; Alex Johnson, president, Community College of Allegheny County (Pa.); Christine Johnson, chancellor, Community Colleges of Spokane (Wash.); Dwight D. Jones, superintendent, Clark County School District (Nev.); Jane A. Karas, president, Flathead Valley Community College (Mont.); William “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor, University System of Maryland; and Jennifer Lara, professor, Anne Arundel Community College (Md.)

Also, Paul E. Lingenfelter, president, State Higher Education Executive Officers (Boulder, Colo.); Michael B. McCall, president, Kentucky Community & Technical College System (Versailles, Ky.); Mark David Milliron, deputy director, Postsecondary Improvement U.S. Program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Seattle, Wash.); Eloy Oakley, superintendent-president, Long Beach City College (Calif.); Diana G. Oblinger, president and CEO, EDUCAUSE; Daniel J. Phelan, president, Jackson Community College (Mich.); and DeRionne P. Pollard, president, Montgomery College (Md.).

Also, Richard M. Rhodes, president, Austin Community College (Texas) as of Sept. 1, 2011; Rod A. Risley, executive director, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society; John E. Roueche, professor and director, Community College Leadership Program, The University of Texas at Austin; James T. Ryan, chairman, president and CEO, W.W. Grainger, Inc. (Lake Forest, Ill.); Randy Smith, president, Rural Community College Alliance (Okla.); and Mary F. T. Spilde, president, Lane Community College (Ore.).

Also, John “Ski” Sygielski, president, Harrisburg Area Community College (Pa.); Vincent Tinto, distinguished university professor, School of Education, Syracuse University (N.Y.); Philip Uri Treisman, professor of mathematics and public affairs and director, Charles A. Dana Center, The University of Texas at Austin; and Nancy L. Zimpher, Chancellor, The State University of New York.

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