Challenges Facing Contemporary Community Colleges

Challenges Facing Contemporary Community Colleges

Shah S. Ardalan (Lone Star College, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5861-3.ch013
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For over a century, American community colleges have delivered on their mission of open access and now educate about half of all undergraduate students in the United States. Recognized as primary providers of higher education and workforce training, especially to non-traditional and socioeconomically disadvantaged students, community colleges serve as transformative engines of prosperity and democratization of education. Contemporary community colleges face many challenges. Mainly, while community colleges are persistently underfunded, their leaders are under ever-increasing demand to improve student completion.
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As the community’s college and a significant engine of upward mobility, American community colleges have proven their remarkable value for over a century, but face serious challenges. Socioeconomic challenges facing a community or the nation are challenges facing community colleges. With an ever-increasing focus on accountability and expectations of improved student graduation rates, contemporary community college leaders are faced with historic challenges. These challenges include staying true to their original mission of providing open access while meeting the country’s ever-increasing expectations and demands for improved student completion rates. If social justice remains a national priority, community colleges can fight poverty, serve the socioeconomically disadvantaged, and build America’s middle class. However, their fundamental challenges, such as significant and chronic budget cuts must be understood and addressed. This chapter provides a review of the more prominent challenges facing the contemporary American community colleges.

Introduction and Significance

In September 2017, the United States Census Bureau reported that in 2016, over 40.6 million or 12.7% of total population and nearly 13.3 million or 18.0% of American children under 18 lived in poverty (Income and Poverty in the United States, 2017). Without getting into different categories of poverty such as deep poverty, generational, and situational poverty, experts agree that the best way to fight or prevent poverty is through education. However, a nationwide study of 3,000 public high schools conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center revealed poverty is the best predictor of college attendance and completion, not national origin, ethnicity, race, or the high school attended (Sparks & Adams, 2013). According to Stroud (2013), by addressing poverty as a barrier to student success, community colleges offer an essential opportunity to upward mobility. Therefore, as the primary provider of education to the majority of socioeconomically and otherwise disadvantaged students in the United States, it is critically important that American community colleges increase their student graduation rates significantly.

Community colleges were created to serve as a beacon of hope to end socioeconomic inequalities by allowing everyone an opportunity to reach the American dream. However, despite its glorious past, in just a few decades, the United States has dramatically and continuously lost its distinction as the nation with the highest percentage of an educated population. “Unless America’s higher education institutions can improve the skill level of the labor force, the nation risks failing to produce the talent required to maintain its economic competitiveness” (Auguste et al., 2010). As a primary provider of higher education, American community colleges, can and should play a significant role in the prosperity of Americans and America by dramatically increasing their low graduation rates.

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