Rebuilding America's Middle Class: New Community College Leaders Organization Advocating to Policymakers

Article excerpt

In 2011, four community college system chancellors began discussing how community colleges help build a stronger, more competitive workforce and, therefore, a strong middle class. "What we were seeing was increased recognition of the role of community colleges in terms of solving a number of problems being faced by individuals, employers, and states, but along with that recognition were increased expectations," says Joe D. May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. "Regulations coming out of Washington, but elsewhere too, didn't fully grasp the changes occurring in the workplace and the economy, and the role that community colleges play. Often well intentioned, these regulations have unintended consequences," notes May, adding that the regulations tend to work against, rather than in support of, getting an education and then a good middle-class job.

May is leading the organization formed in response to these challenges. Called Rebuilding America's Middle Class (RAMC), the group of community college leaders aims to speak with a unified, proactive voice at the national, state, and local levels. Specifically, RAMC is working to:

* Provide a strong national voice for community colleges by advocating for partnerships and strategies that improve both access and student success.

* Tell the story of America's community colleges by creating and executing a communications campaign to demonstrate the role community colleges play in providing their students with an onramp to the middle class and in spurring economic development in local communities.

* Educate policy makers to develop and implement sound laws, rules, and regulations that support America's community colleges in their effort to build a strong middle class.

RAMC differs from other community college organizations, May says, in its refined focus on legislation. "We don't get into other sector-based issues.... We're working collaboratively not only with the American Council of Community Colleges, but any community college advocacy group that already exists."

An initial meeting, held this spring with the support of the Lumina Foundation, ACT, and Pearson, had representation from about 50 colleges from throughout the country. …