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2013 February 6 - 12:00 am

POV: ‘New Normal’ Means Meeting Needs of Students, Collaborating with Partners

A well-educated, technically competent and civically informed and engaged citizenry is the foundation of a healthy society and economy. Such citizenry begets innovation, productivity, wealth and a social fabric to support it all.

As the tides of the most recent Great Recession recede, politicians, business and industry leaders, and educators all agree that the disparity among Americans, as measured by educational attainment, income, civic participation and other characteristics is unstable soil to re-grow our nation’s primacy, both internally and in the 21st Century global workplace.

As the president of a community college, I have seen how the demand for a more productive higher education system has changed how we do business.President Obama, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and our Maricopa Community Colleges Governing Board have all asked us to double the number of graduates or completers by 2020. Arizona needs 36,000 more baccalaureate-prepared graduates to meet current and future business growth demands. Community colleges will play a critical role in meeting these goals.

In a sign of progress, public discussions no longer focus on “how important education is,” but rather “how quickly can our institutions ‘produce’ a more highly educated population.”

As a life-long educator, I am thrilled that the question has shifted, I am also concerned that the call for speed may undermine the more critical need for a well-rounded education.

Community colleges have a front row seat to the challenges of today’s students and communities that we serve.Today we must be nimble and innovative, meeting a growing body of students with vastly different educational needs with new instructional strategies, new standards for serving students, leading edge technology focused on student success and instructor effectiveness. Truly, we are in the midst of new thinking about our business.

We’re learning as we go along. We’ve learned that hybrid courses do a better job of retaining students than purely online courses. We’ve learned that students need to be carefully advised in order to develop an educational plan for themselves, and we’ve learned to recognize the signs that a student may need more support from us to successfully complete a course or remain engaged and committed to achieving their educational goals.

At Scottsdale Community College, we’ve been able to double the number of our students who receive a two-year degree or certificate of completion in the last six years.

It’s taken a broad commitment from faculty, staff and students but it’s been well worth the effort. At SCC, students get:

  • Hybrid courses, which blend traditional classroom instruction with online learning;
  • Tutoring centers for high stakes courses;
  • Employee mentors drawn from SCC faculty and staff;
  • In-class supplemental help from professors and staff;
  • Learning communities that bring students together in areas such as math, Native American entrepreneurship and civic engagement;
  • Flexible schedules, including five- and eight-week courses;

With nearly three-quarters of our students testing into at least one developmental course, our aim is to meet every student where they are and help them with their next step along a sound and productive educational pathway. Whether it’s refreshers in basic math and writing or accounting and fundamentals of scientific research, their success is our purpose.

We also know that students are better served when we collaborate with business and industry, our communities and tribal partners. These partners help us fulfill our role in providing customized training to meet the very real near-term workplace needs for basic knowledge and technical competency.

Of equal or greater value is our role in helping students become knowledgeable and competent, critical thinkers and problem-solvers who will not only serve the economic needs of today but critical societal needs of the future.

This is the new normal for the 21st Century college.

It’s YOUR TURN  CCW wants  to hear from you!
Q:  What does the “new normal” mean on your campus?
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