Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Expanding College Completion: The Challenge of Capacity: It Is Important to Ensure That Our Nation's Open-Access Colleges Can Operate at a Level Where They Can Provide Seats at the Higher Education Table for All Who Wish to Attend

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Expanding College Completion: The Challenge of Capacity: It Is Important to Ensure That Our Nation's Open-Access Colleges Can Operate at a Level Where They Can Provide Seats at the Higher Education Table for All Who Wish to Attend

Article excerpt

ACROSS THE COUNTRY, much attention continues to focus on educational attainment. Specifically, Americans are growing concerned about no longer being first in the proportion of citizens with a postsecondary degree. In 2000, the United States was the world leader in college completion, i.e., the proportion of a country's adult population age 25-34 with college degrees. But this is no longer the case as the United States' global ranking for college completion dropped to 10th in 2009 (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2010) and further declined to 16th in 2011 (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2011).

The Lumina Foundation recently released a special report, A Stronger Nation, laying out how the United States can once again be number one in educational attainment.

The foundation theorizes that each state must bring up attainment to 60 percent by 2025 (Lumina Foundation 2012). Community colleges clearly must play a significant role in order to achieve this goal. However, following the recent severe recession and in an era of deep and lasting budget cuts, many of the nation's two-year colleges have struggled to meet enrollment demands (Katsinas, D'Amico, and Friedel 2011a).

The community college is a portal of entry into U.S. higher education for millions of academically-talented minority and low-income students. These colleges serve more traditionalage first-generation students than do other sectors; they also serve large numbers of adult students. In addition, the current economic environment has focused attention on the workforce development mission of community colleges and their capacity to expand our skilled labor force.

Writing in 1994, the late Clark Kerr predicted "Tidal Wave II," which he characterized as the wave of grandchildren of World War II GIs who would hit traditional college-going years starting in 1996 (Kerr 1994). This indeed did occur: in 1996, there were 19.3 million 18- to 24-year-olds in the American population; this figure jumped to 23.7 million in 2009 and jumped again to 24.6 million in 2012. Thus, between 2009 and 2012, there were one million more Americans of traditional college-going age--and this demographic reality occurred whether or not our nation and states were in recession and whether or not our institutions were funded to serve it (DeMonBrun, Hardy, and Katsinas 2009). This stress was previously documented in our past annual surveys of National Council of State Directors of Community College (NCSDCC) members. In 2009, we found that 12 states reported capped enrollments at their public flagship universities, including four of the five largest, and that seven states reported capped enrollments at their public regional universities, including three of the five largest (Katsinas and Tollefson 2009). Capped enrollments at elite private and public flagship universities have caused a capacity problem at community colleges. As a result, the expansion of community colleges will be necessary in order to increase graduation rates. These and related issues are particularly relevant to the members of the NCSDCC, who frequently address issues of policy and practice related to access, success, and funding in the nation's two-year colleges. The University of Alabama's Education Policy Center documents these state-level community college perspectives annually through the Access and Funding in Public Higher Education report series (Katsinas, D'Amico, and Friedel 2011a). Specifically, this article discusses college degree completion issues from the perspective of those responsible for the coordination, supervision, and management of community colleges. It also includes an analysis that builds upon survey data presented in our 2011 issue brief Challenging Success: Can College Degree Completion Be Increased as States Cut Budgets? (Katsinas, D'Amico, and Friedel 2011b).

THE RECENT BARRIERS TO AND FACILITATORS OF SUCCESS IN THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE SECTOR

Our previous reports described many of the barriers that community colleges face when working to meet education and workforce needs. …

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