The establishment of community colleges can be traced back to 1901, when colleges were offering liberal art studies. The recession of 1930 forced theses colleges to start offering job-training programs to alleviate unemployment. In 1948, the Truman Commission suggested the establishment of public, community based colleges to serve the interests of the local communities. Community colleges have been on an upward trajectory since then.
Community colleges play a very important role in the American education system. For people who cant afford the four year institution, community colleges provide a viable option. Apart from those who cannot afford four year schools, the community colleges also take people who wish to further their education, depending on the demands of the labor market. This is possible because community colleges provide flexible schedules for working students. Community colleges are also the only tertiary institutions that teach technical skills. These skills are important when graduates are looking for work in markets that are demanding them.
Public Community Colleges Overview
Community colleges are mainly two-year public institutions for higher education which also offer remedial education, technical degrees, high school degrees, GEOs, certificates and selected four-year degree programs. By 1994, the percentage of people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four who enrolled in community colleges grew up to 36% (Kane & Rouse 1999). A graduate from a community may opt to transfer to a university and take two or three years bachelor degree, or join the workforce.
In the management, and efficient running of a community college, various factors, or environments, come into play. These factors are categorized as economic, political, legal or social factors (environment). Political factors come into play when, for example, a federal agencies focuses on community colleges issues. For example, the Obama administration sought to have the highest proportion of students graduating from community colleges in the world. To support this initiative, the federal government proposed initiatives which would see to raised educational attainments, and student outcomes, as well as encouraging the colleges to keep their tuition affordable. Political changes usually lead to change of policy and different approaches to influencing higher education.
The Department of Education also controls the institutions, more so their tuition, pressuring them to justify tuition increments when they defy what it believes is acceptable. For example, as reported by The College Board, two-year institutions tuition increased by 8.7% in the fiscal year 2012. Reduction in appropriations from the states, and increased enrolments which has led to increased costs, has contributed to the raise of tuition (Boggs 2016).
Economic factors determine the success, or failure of a community college. Tough economic times lead to states cutting down on college funding, forcing the colleges to raise their tuition fees and cancel some of their classes. Two-year institutions also receive more enrolments during hard economic times; from workers and transfers of students from the more expensive four-year institutions. Given the dwindling funding of community colleges and reduced scholarship offers, students and their parents have to take up more loans to pursue education. The Great Recession highlighted this problem in the United States. Weak labor market conditions in the great recession saw an increase in enrollments while states constricted their budgets. This made it difficult for colleges to maintain their programs and accommodate students demand (Hillman et al. 2017).
Community colleges are faced with a number of legal issues under which they are supposed to operate. These regulations, which colleges are expected to enforce, include the privacy rights of students, suicides and other violent actions in campus and the limits to tolerating internet speech when it results in campus disruptions and abusive behaviors. With the increased number of transgender students enrolling in campus, increased awareness of their rights have led to regulations being passed to safeguard them, particularly on the use of locker room and bathrooms.
The colleges has to comply with other legal provisions such as the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Public Information Requests, Student Records (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), Intellectual Property Problems: Copyright Violations and Open Meeting Law. Community colleges have to ensure they always remain up-to-date with changing legal regulations to avoid running foul with the law (Vaughan et al. 1992)
Social factors also determine the kind of people who enroll in a college. Latinos are more likely to than white or African-American students to begin their post-secondary study at a community college than in a four-year institution (Kurlaender 2006). Community colleges also enroll high school leavers and adult students who wish to further their studies (Oudenhoven 2002).
Community colleges are facing enormous budget cuts while enrolment numbers continue going up. The colleges are responding to these massive cuts by raising tuition, and deciding which majors and classes to do away with. Budget cuts are also forcing colleges to reduce enrolment capacity and enforced lay off staff and faculty positions (Katsinas et al. 2009).
Amid the budget allocation cuts and the increased demand for two year institutions, colleges have to budget their limited resources, while prioritizing on optimizing students performances. The goals of the college should be the guiding factors in making of the budget.
The policies and principles of the college are being revised accordingly in order to guide the budgeting process. The colleges are redefining, and making well developed goals which are realistic and measurable. During the budgeting process, the colleges are working at identifying the gap between the current affairs and the goal; highlight the root causes of the gap and providing solutions, or means of closing the gap. Due to the constraint of the resources available, the budget is tailor-made to prioritize spending on expenditures that align with the goals of the college. A budget document listing the challenges that the college is undergoing through, and the measures it is taking to overcome them. The budget is prepared with clear roles defined for all stakeholders, showing the measure of success and allocation methodologies applied. This increases the transparency and the accountability of the college (Grizzle & Pettijohn 2002).
The tone of ethics in a community college is set by its leadership. Thus for a community college to be trustworthy and respectable, its leaders have to be persons of integrity and respectable. The president helps set the ethical of his/her college through exemplary leadership and personal conduct.
The president and other members of the college organization should strive to promote trust and respect for all, honesty in all actions, just and fair treatment of all people and integrity in all actions. This eliminates any form of clash of interest on the part of administrators, sexual relationship between students and administrators ensure that all stakeholders are involved in the administration of the college and are informed of the changes taking place in the institution.
Any infraction of the ethic policy should be punished after a fair disciplinary hearing, to avoid witch-hunt, and respecting the rights of the offender.
A community college is as successful as its leadership; hence it is of utmost for the college to ensure its president is an exemplary leader with the required leadership skills. A good leader should be a person with personal adaptability, role flexibility and sound judgment. These qualities are important assets for a community college president to possess because, as the head of the college, the president is expected to deal with people of diverse backgrounds, with different personalities (Pierce and Pederson 1997).
The productivity of an education institution is measured by dividing its annual cost of operation by the number of graduates the institution produces in that particular year. The productivity of community colleges can be improved by reducing the rate of students attrition (dropping out of college before graduating), reducing non-productive credits, and improving efficiency in core support and services (Spanbauer 1995).
Due to diminishing resources, community colleges are under scrutiny from the federal government in its attempt to ensure accountability higher education institutions amid great competitions for funds. Colleges should strive to provide educational returns that justify the cost of maintaining a community college.
Kane T & Rouse C. (2005). The Community College: Educating Students at the Margin between College and Work. The Journal of Economic Perspective. Vol. 13, Issue No. 1 Pp. 63-84
Pfeffer, J. And Salanchik, G. (1974). Organizational Decision Making As a Political Process: The Case of a University Budget. Administrative Science Quarterly. Vol. 19 Issue No. 2
Grizzle, G. And Pettijohn (2002) Implementing performance Based Program Budgeting: A System-Dynamics Perspective. Public Administration Reviews Vol. 62 Issue 1 Pp. 51-62 DOI: 10.1111/1540-6210.00154
Pierce, D. And Pedersen, R. (1974) The Community College President: Qualities For Success. New Direction For Community College. Vol. 1997 Issue 98 Pp. 13-20 DOI: 10.1002/C.9802
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