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AACC president Walter Bumphus: "We need to completely reimagine community colleges for today and the future"

The Wall Street Journal

AACC president Walter Bumphus

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) released a report this week that calls for dramatic changes to America's community colleges to ensure U.S. competitiveness. The report outlines seven specific recommendations for reforming the country's community college system in its new report, Reclaiming the American Dream: A Report from the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges.

The report's counsel center on the "Three Rs" of reform: Redesign, Reinvent and Reset. These are defined as a redesign of students' educational experiences, a reinvention of institutional roles, and a resetting of the system to create partnerships and incentives for student and institutional success.

"We need to completely reimagine community colleges for today and the future," said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, AACC's president and CEO, who commissioned the report. "It is important that college graduates be not just globally competitive but also globally competent, understanding their roles as citizens and workers in an international context. In today's knowledge economy, intellectual capital is a nation's greatest, most renewable natural resource."

Bumphus went on to say, "Higher education is struggling with low student success rates and employers complain about inadequate student preparation for the job market. Our underinvestment in higher education not only wastes our human capital, it threatens U.S. global economic leadership, contributes to the erosion of our middle class, and calls into question the viability of the American dream, with its promise of upward mobility for each generation."

The report states low student success rates and inadequate job preparation hinder middle-class students and have a devastating effect on low-income students and students of color, those often in greatest need of what community colleges have to offer.

In a rapidly changing America and a drastically reshaped world, the Commission notes, sustaining the American Dream is at risk. The ground beneath the nation's feet has shifted so dramatically that community colleges - which had their greatest growth period to respond to societal needs in the 1960s and 1970s - need to re-imagine their roles and the ways in which they work. A highly educated population is fundamental to economic growth and community colleges play a significant role in ensuring the American dream. Stepping up to this challenge will require dramatic redesign of these institutions, their mission, and, most critically, their students' educational experiences.
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