Eight Questions Report, Questions 7 and 8

Eight Important Questions for Eleven Community College Leaders:An Exploration of Community College Issues, Trends & Strategies

Questions 7 and 8

by the SOURCE on Community College Issues, Trends & Strategies
May 2011

7. Is it a challenge for most community colleges to effectively and actively pursue grants both governmental and foundation-oriented? What are the challenges and solutions in this area of concern?

Question 7 Brief: Part of this issue is related to the higher education community not having enough graduate degree programs that bring more professionals into the field of funding management and grant writing at the community college level. “We need those people because that is one of the few options community colleges have to raise their own funds,” said O’Banion. However, the challenge of adding on even experienced staff during tough times is a problem in and of itself.

Milliron added that there are great opportunities available through the federal government and through foundations. “There is probably more excitement around community colleges today then we have ever seen from these agencies,” he said. “It is a time to get serious about it. The colleges that have done that, such as Sinclair Community College and Central Piedmont Community College, have very focused grant-writing operations. They have been successful at going after National Science Foundation and federal government grants.”

Thor brought up the fact that while alternative revenue sources are more important than ever, the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District is being forced to operate at very lean levels, meaning that “there is not much bandwidth to take on grant writing and grant proposals. It’s extremely difficult.”

Roueche suggested that community colleges conduct workshops and training sessions, on a voluntary basis, that would alert and inform faculty of where support resources might exist for their specific programs. “These would not only be foundations, but also corporations and the federal agencies. Most community college faculty members have no idea where that kind of support might reside,” Roueche said. “They need to run specific training sessions on how to write proposals, how proposals are evaluated and scored, how to make contact with foundations and corporations. We are going to have to do a lot more of this in the community college sector.”

Shugart: It’s certainly more competitive now, but I don’t mind competition. I think the larger challenge for us now is that grant makers have rightfully demanded more about how big of a difference will this make and how will we know; they have become more evidence-based and more demanding. Those are two good things.

What concerns me is that more and more grant makers want to make grants in a way that doesn’t increase the capacity of the institution. They want to fund temporary costs for consultants and travel and things like that, which are helpful to us, but they don’t help us to model and test interventions with risk capital and then leverage that to bring them to scale. We recently received a request to submit a proposal to a major foundation. The only uses of the money are travel and consultants, essentially, and attending their meetings. Our reaction to that was, we like these people, and we think this is good work, but it creates a fair amount of hassle to fund things we don’t think we need. I don’t really want another ABCD visiting team. I want to take work we think will work and test it here. I can do that with my money. It would be helpful if I had more risk capital to do that. But there is a decreasing willingness to invest in institutional infrastructure, and the money gets diverted outside the institution to other resources. And sometimes they are helpful, but we have been involved over the past decade or so in the whole alphabet soup — everything that’s come down the pipe for student improvement — and, the truth is, we’re at the point now where the visitations by the coaches and the consultants distracts us from our work.

Cameron: The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill was established somewhere around 1794. GTCC was established in 1958. Well, they have a few years ahead of us on how to do that. And if you really become serious, the community college movement does not go back to 1903 to Joliet. It really didn’t become serious until the 1960s. In the 60s, we were building about one college a week in the United States. We didn’t really start truly maturing until about the 80s or 90s. So, regarding community colleges going after grants and foundations, we’re like a Johnny Come Lately in that arena compared to our university colleagues. We have moved in that direction because of the economic circumstances we find ourselves in. We have increased our foundation staff in just the last two to three years simply because it is a necessity today due to the economic climate we find ourselves.

Snyder: We have a grant staff. I think this is an important issue, and we have been very active in this regard. We have active grants in excess of $50 million. We have technology grants where we work with other colleges both in state and out of state. For example, we are a partner with Purdue, the lead in a battery grant. And we are the lead in a smart grid training grant where Purdue is our partner. That is one example. The DOE and the DOL are looking at these issues and are seeing the community college as a partner. We are a participant in a few of the TAACCCT grants. We are the lead in one and are partners in two others. That is an emerging trend, where we are going to encourage to work as consortia. I think that is going to be a game changer.

8. Please explain what you think are the most pressing issues and challenges being faced by community colleges today and what you think the future looks like five years from now.

Question 8 Brief: As with any prognostication, responses to this question were fairly wide spread and varied. There were some refrains, however, such as keeping up with technology, the prospect of numerous community college leadership retirements coming soon, issues and challenges related to the so-called “completion agenda,” and serious expectations of significant change on the near horizon. Below are the shortened, pointed versions that can easily be labeled as highly interesting, thought-provoking, and provocative.

Cameron: The diversity issue is not as great today as it is going to be in the next five to ten years. If you read the demographics and studies, the year 2050 recently changed to 2042 as the estimate for when non-white Americans will make up more than half of our population. This means we need to hire more Native Americans, more Hispanics, more Asians and other non-white Americans if we are going to have role models for those students to emulate into the future. I think that is something we really need to become serious about and give strong consideration today.

Another area about the future relates to keeping up with technology. The Millennials and Gen Xers are walking around campus with something in both hands, communicating back and forth. That behooves us, and the faculty, and staff ranks to make sure that we have the appropriate communication skills and the delivery-of-instruction skills to meet their needs and the way they learn. To go back to the question about grants and the foundations, in order to maintain a high quality institution we are going to have to become more active in securing grants and enhancing our endowments and our foundations to give us the money we need to work with the students and be successful.

de los Santos: Perhaps we will be seeing an increase in partnerships between community colleges and some for-profits. There may be some opportunities, particularly as we’re looking at using technology to be innovative along with the proliferation of open courseware. That’s going to evolve and emerge as a game changer, because it could change the whole concept of the business model for higher education. If we see this great proliferation of sophisticated in-depth, high quality, media-rich, open courseware sanctioned by faculty and the community colleges, it will change the business model and at least change the role of faculty in the classroom as we talk about the future.

There is also going to be increasing pressure over the next five years for community college CEOs to spend more of their time raising funds and looking at alternative sources for fundraising.

I also think that over the next five years we’re going to see a lot of transitions in leadership. CEOs to faculty members are going to be retiring. Those who have put in 30, 35, 40, sometimes 45 years into community colleges are going to be making transitions. I’m not saying that they’re going to stop working, but they’re going to transition out of their current roles.

Gould: I have to say the most pressing issues and challenges are related to declining public resources while the demand for community college education is on a steep rise.

Declining fiscal resources has challenged community colleges to continue a multiple-level mission that includes community services, lifelong learning, and community public interest programs and services. Low level basic skills, English as a Second Language, and even Citizenship class offerings are losing ground to a greater focus on college readiness, transfer, and career-technical programs.

Yet, as we look at fiscal crisis through the lens of the optimist and towards the end of five years, there is great hope for more accessible, better, standardized learning outcomes and curricula, and opportunities for collaboration between and among colleges for robust, effective online teaching and learning. The fiscal crisis might even result in collaborative regional or virtual curricular offerings; new ways of teaching; and anytime, anyplace learning offered through centralized online programs that reduce the cost of online learning infrastructure, learning management software, and course and program development. Perhaps we will even see the blending of teaching and curricular resources and programs developed by private corporations blended with the tradition of public institutionally based teaching and course development.

We should definitely see the development of social learning networks allowing for greater access to learning tools and information. Perhaps we will see the emergence of standardized courses, teaching through regional and/or state consortiums. We might even see governance become more efficient and effective. In short, the current fiscal crisis provides an opportunity to produce a better return on the public and private investment into community college education.

Lambert: I think how we manage change is going to become ever more important. Bob Johansen at the recent ACE general meeting used the acronym VUCAW, which stands for a volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, world. That’s only going to increase, not decrease. How do you move forward in the face of that? And going hand in hand with that is leadership. We can’t talk about change really without talking about talent management and leadership development.

Of course I think technology is already redefining what we do, but I think it’s going to become increasingly more so. If you take a look at the disruptive innovation work by Christensen and Horn, the question becomes when is the disruption going to occur? It might happen in the next five years. When will we hit that point where it flips over? Do we become like RCA and Zenith and all those companies compared to all the Sonys and the LGs and the Samsungs? I don’t know, but I worry about that, and how fast can I move to make sure we’re staying on the forefront of what’s happening with technology. Not to say get rid of your face-to-face, but to say how do these all work together. There will always be students who want the face-to-face experience, and it’s very important. But there’s going to be a whole set of folks, who for whatever reasons, will not want that experience.

Lassiter: In the spirit of succinctness, Lassiter provided the following laundry list: For public community colleges funding at the state level is the #1 priority; addressing the completion agenda; advocacy for the contemporary role and mission of the community college; causing the larger community to view the community college as a key cog in the ‘economic engine;’ reframing the approach to developmental education; in view of declining resources and the continual growth in enrollment, is the ‘open door’ mission thrust still viable?; embracing the concept of a ‘culture of evidence’ within the college structure, including the governing board; guiding the board from an undue emphasis on the ‘business side’ and not enough focus on the academic and student services part of the policy-making role of the governing board; preparing for changes in funding patterns from access-oriented to outcome-oriented; and succession planning for both faculty and senior administrators.

Milliron: I have a lot of confidence in the embrace of innovation in community colleges. I think that the press has not just been toward access, but access and success and completion. I think people are going to be surprised, and I don’t think it’s going to be easy. This is hard work, but you’re going to see a lot of community colleges really put their shoulder to the wheel and really tackle the challenges of academic catch up and remediation, tackle the challenges of leveraging technology, think through the learn-and-earn concept, and begin to look at the end-to-end model.

We use this model at the foundation called the lost momentum framework that actually asks colleges to look at every stage of a student’s progression from connection, to entry, to progression, to completion — look at your lost points where you’re losing students, look at your momentum strategies, and then really innovate together to develop a coherent completion-centric pathway through the entire institution.

I think the embrace of new models, with a real focus on quality learning, is going to be at the heart of this work. You’re going to see more energy and activity in the next ten years, almost like a rebirth of the community college movement that was explosive in the late 60s and 70s. There’s this new challenge at our tables, and it is probably time for us to step up and figure out what these new models are going to look like. The most important thing is for us to just stay laser focused on student learning and effective outcomes for our students and make sure that we work with people of good will around a very important challenge and be tough minded about it, not apologetic. Community colleges have done a lot of great work they should be proud of, and now it’s time to innovate against a new challenge.

O’Banion: While increasing enrollments, declining resources, retiring leaders, and political chaos are pressing issues for most community colleges, the completion agenda transcends all other current issues to focus our attention on this national imperative. Demands will be placed on community colleges by the White House and the state houses to double the number of completers in the next decade or so. The foundations will provide hundreds of millions of dollars to experiment with new programs and practices. All community colleges will embrace the agenda, some with strong commitments, some reluctantly. In five years we will begin to see some bright spots of success in maybe a hundred or so colleges who do it right. The overall outcome for the nation’s 1,200 colleges will be disappointing, and we will enter a period not unlike every other period of calm that follows a storm of reform: analysis, blame, disappointment, Pollyanna explanations, resignation, and then a rising tide of energy and passion when the new bromide appears.

Roueche: We’re moving so dramatically into new arenas and new ways of delivering instruction that we’ll never go back to the old way completely.

We’re faced with all these burgeoning enrollments, but in the face of draconian budget cuts. I would say in the short run that handling that without turning away the very students who need us the most will be our major, major challenge. You also have to throw in globalization. You’ve got a tsunami in Japan, and people are closing down automobile assembly plants in the United States. It just points out how totally interdependent we are on what’s happening in the rest of the world. Look at what’s happening in the Middle East. Not many years ago, people would say, ‘oh that’s too bad, but it doesn’t involve us.’ Well, all of it involves us now.

We’re going to have to do more with adjunct professors. Obviously, adjunct faculty will be the survival probably of the community college down the road, unless we become a lot more successful with our entrepreneurial outreach partnership activities. We’re probably going to have a 70 or 80 percent leadership turnover in the next five years. We’re also going to have a huge turnover of faculty. So we have lots and lots of challenges facing us and no easy answers. I tell people, if you like change, if you thrive in change, this is the right field for you.

Shugart: We have seen dramatic improvements in our results with students, and it is resulting in a much higher graduation rates. Our success rates among developmental students have more than doubled from the mid 90s to now. It’s extraordinary. We’ve worked steadily at it for 15 years. So I’m very, very hopeful — now that perhaps 200 institutions are deeply into this work — that the needle is going to be moving in a lot of places.

More people will recognize that community colleges are a dominant mode of access to higher education in America, and they’ll take us seriously for that. Their expectations are going to go up even as our results improve. That may be expressed in policy and in funding, but certainly it’s going to be expressed in educational measures. So I expect five years from now we will begin to see the first very serious use across the country of public disclosure of institutional performance metrics. It’s important that they be the right measures, or they’ll create perverse behaviors and incentives.

For example, you can go to a lot of places for four-year colleges now and see published graduation rates. We are just beginning to see that occur with two-year colleges. We’re getting better at that. You really need to have a graduation rate for students who come to us college ready. Then you need to have additional graduation rates for students who required light, medium, or heavy remediation, because those are very different populations. And a consumer needs to be able to decide what population am I in and who’s going to best meet my needs. We need more discriminating measures that really speak to the work and the needs of the student. I think that will beemerging over the next five years.

Snyder: The overreaching issue is that the U.S. has not moved the needle in terms of college attainment. College attainment is a good measure of the future economic success of the country. That dovetails pretty clearly with the Complete College America initiative that the governors are adopting. We think that is going to be the driving force for the future. We will be looking at what we have do to get more completers.

The complicating issue is that we have decreased funding from the states. We also have revenue issues. So I think the schools are going to have to find ways to be more efficient, because you can’t increase the revenue on the backs of our students, who can’t afford it. I think those are two competing forces. The country needs to grow the middle class, which I think is a laser-like focus on what we have.

Thor: Clearly the biggest problem we have is budget reductions. We are very focused on the achievement gap, and we are clearly aware of the fact that certain minority groups are not succeeding at the same rates as others. We are very supportive of that; however, we’re also concerned that quality be part of the completion agenda — in other words, that we’re not just about increasing numbers of certificates and degrees at any cost.

I think keeping up with technology is a tremendous challenge for community colleges. The more traditional-aged student coming in here is not only now a digital native, but they are demanding that fairly state-of-the-art technology be available to them and be used in the classroom.

The other big challenge is that we have to learn to collaborate both within institutions and across our institutions, both for efficiency and the fact that we can’t all be doing everything. We need to be coordinating what we’re doing so that the region is provided with the services and the programs that it needs, but not all of us are doing it. The problem that we have is basically the not-invented-here syndrome. Each institution, each department, and each faculty member thinks that they know how to do it best. They wouldn’t dare hand it over to somebody else or adopt somebody else’s model. I don’t think we have the resources to continue behaving like that.

Western Governors University: Partnering for Community College Student Success

When 19 U.S. governors established Western Governors University in 1997 they had a vision—little more than a dream—that technology coupled with excellent academic quality would open doors of opportunity for countless individuals who might otherwise be unable to pursue their education and career goals. Today, in 2011, the vision is reality.

Like America’s community colleges, nonprofit WGU serves a diverse student body. Of WGU’s 25,000 students spread across all 50 states, most are working adults, and their ages range from the early 20s to 60s. They come to WGU because they want a great quality education at a very affordable tuition. They want flexibility, support, and knowledge and skills that will fit what the job market is demanding. And they want bachelor’s and master’s degrees that are respected by academia and industry.

But given that online education is so widespread today, what makes WGU different?

“Students choose WGU for a host of special reasons, including WGU’s low tuition and flexibility,” notes Patrick Partridge, Vice President of Enrollment at WGU, “but most also value WGU’s unique competency-based academic model that allows students to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities through rigorous assessments on an individualized pace not tied to traditional semesters.”

The WGU approach is particularly well-suited to the community college graduate or student who has completed substantial college already—even more so if the student has additional experience or competence in their degree area.

WGU does not compete for transfer students who want to attend state four-year institutions. Rather, Partridge notes, “WGU is a transfer option for community college students whose life situations—such as work, family, and income—puts the traditional campus education out of reach. Often that’s an older student, but the same situation applies to many younger students too.”

WGU also assigns a mentor for each new student whose primary job is to provide ongoing personal support, including weekly calls at first. “Our mentors are basically ‘success coaches,’” says Chris Mallett, Associate Provost for Mentoring. “Their job is to be part personal coach and part academic advisor.” The one-on-one mentoring model is also applied to support students in each online course.

As for the low tuition mentioned earlier, for most WGU programs tuition is less than $6,000 a year. Many students take advantage of WGU’s flat-rate tuition of $2,890, which covers ALL the courses that a student can complete in six months, to accelerate the time to complete a degree. Sometimes the saving in time and money can be dramatic.

Noted Harvard Business School guru Clay Christiansen considers WGU one of the leading “disruptive innovators” in higher education. The praise is appreciated, Partridge says, “but we want everyone to understand that our innovations are always student focused.”

Western Governors University has developed marketing partnerships and articulation agreements with community colleges all across the U.S. to provide a meaningful option for students whose needs might otherwise go unmet. To learn more, visit the WGU website at www.wgu.edu/partners.

About the SOURCE on Community College Issues, Trends & Strategies

The SOURCE is the early fruition of a project that initially started in late 2009. Its aim is to provide timely, accurate and highly informative resources to community college students, faculty, staff and administrators. SOURCE reports are based on the latest scholarly literature and through interviews with individuals who have been identified as reliable and intelligent sources of information about the issues, trends, and strategies concerning the growth and development of community colleges on numerous levels. SOURCE reports are designed to be graphically pleasing and highly readable, with clear typefaces and images. In addition, SOURCE reports include numerous live links (highlighted in light blue), giving readers the ability to easily and quickly go right to the SOURCE of information cited in these documents. The SOURCE website includes a variety of special sections, segmented into SILOS, where visitors can link to numerous other reports, news and other information resources concerning community colleges.

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