Recommendations May Not Go Far Enough

Carnegie Senior Managing Partner Bernadine Chuck Fong served as a member of the American Association of Community Colleges 21st-Century Commission that released a report last week urging community colleges to change their practices in order to meet the needs of the future.

“The report pushes community colleges in the right direction if they are bold enough to truly re-imagine how to implement their mission, but I think colleges can aspire to even higher aims,” Fong said. For example, the report recommends having a goal to increase completion rates by 50 percent by 2020. “I think we can do better than a 50 percent completion rate and accomplish it before 2020,” Fong said.

Getting students to success takes attention, but we have already demonstrated that we can do it.

Carnegie is working to increase the success rate of students in development math, which is one of the greatest gatekeepers to college completion. Statway, one of Carnegie’s new math pathways, aims to get students to and through a transferable college-level math course in one year. Across the Carnegie network of 19 community colleges, almost 1200 students enrolled in Statway last fall, and 68 percent of them passed the first term with a C or better; 75 percent passed with a D or better. “Getting students to success takes attention, but we have already demonstrated that we can do it,” Fong said. As outlined in a nice article in Inside Higher Ed, the commission’s seven final recommendations fall under three categories:

Redesign students’ educational experiences:

  • Increase completion rates to 50 percent by 2020 while preserving access.
  • Dramatically improve college readiness.
  • Close the skills gap by focusing career and technical education on job preparation.

Reinvent institutional roles:

  • Refocus the community college mission to meet 21st-century education and employment needs.
  • Invest in collaboration between community colleges and with partners among philanthropic organizations, government and the private sector.

Reset the system:

  • Target public and private investments strategically to create new incentives for colleges and students.
  • Encourage rigor, transparency, and accountability.

Also on the Commission with Carnegie ties were Carnegie Board members Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, and Austin Community College District President Richard Rhodes.