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By Paul Bradley  /  
2015 March 9 - 11:43 am

Community Colleges Struggle To Find Right Balance

          BOSTON — Community college leaders are struggling to find the proper balance between their historic open access mission and the rising demands for better academic outcomes from lawmakers, accreditors and trustees.

            That was among the key findings of a survey of college chief executive officers conducted by the League for Innovation in the Community College and Civitas Learning. The initial results of the survey, which elicited responses from 280 college presidents, were presented at the League’s Innovations Conference in Boston.

            The survey focused on what’s in store for community colleges administrators, faculty, staff and students as they reshape themselves to meet the new imperative of college completion.

Gerardo E. de los Santos, president of the League, told about 200 college leaders packed into a hotel conference room that the completion agenda is a relatively new phenomenon in the 100-year history of the community college sector. It has led to a “massive shift” in the work being done on college campuses.

Those surveyed said they anticipate taking aggressive steps in future years to further the completion agenda while at the same time expressing concern that some students might be turned away as colleges shift emphasis from access to completion.

“This is going to be tough stuff,” said Mark Milliron, chief learning officer of Civitas and a former League president. “It is not going to be easy. How do you become a champion of both?”

Colleges should reject the easy path of lower academic standards or raising barriers to admission, Milliron said.

The survey also found that colleges need to do a better job of engaging faculty members in the purpose of the completion agenda.

“If faculty are not involved, it will increase the difficulty of moving forward,” de los Santos said.

Colleges also must work on getting the wealth of data analytics into the hands of faculty and others who work directly with students rather that using it solely for accountability purposes with trustees and other overseers.

“We have to move from accountability analytics to action analytics,” Milliron said. “This is a different way of using data.”

The full survey results are expected to be released later this month.


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