Community College Report Identifies Reform Goals

Article excerpt

As part of its goal to revive the United States economy, one of the Obama administration's first initiatives was to set a goal for the nation to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world to produce a workforce that can compete globally.

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In 2008, when Obama was elected, the nation ranked 12th among industrial nations in postsecondary attainment --with 39 percent of its citizens ages 25-34 having an associate degree or higher education. Since then, the public and private sectors have undertaken numerous efforts to create and carry out what has become known as the College Completion Agenda. Notably, the Lumina Foundation set a goal of increasing the percentage of the population in the target age range to 60 percent by 2025.

Various entities and institutions have put forth ideas on how to accomplish that, but a comprehensive approach has yet to emerge. A new report, The College Completion Agenda: Practical Approaches for Reaching the Big Goal: New Directions for Community Colleges, Number 164, by Brad C. Phillips and Jordan E. Horowitz, is the 164th volume of the Jossey-Bass higher education quarterly report series.

The report describes specific strategies and solutions to ensure that students not only go to college, but also finish with skills and credentials. It focuses on community colleges as the sector of education that will bear much of the burden for producing work-ready graduates and preparing students for four-year colleges. A foreword by Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, sets the context, tracing the evolution of the College Completion agenda and acknowledging the challenges facing educators in community colleges. Bumphus says this book "reflects a spirit of reform."

"Through thoughtful and informed analysis of and potential solutions ... the authors further advance understanding among community college practitioners and stakeholders," he writes.

The book includes seven chapters by experts who examine issues, practices, solutions and experiences encountered along the journey to advancing the completion agenda.

* Byron N. McClenney, national director of leadership coaching for Achieving the Dream (ATD), reflects on the role of leadership in changing the internal culture to focus on student success and completion, based on ATD leadership coaches' observations over nearly a decade of work with community colleges. (ATD is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students stay in school and earn a certificate or degree. …