HCC Plays Role in Reshaping Community Colleges
Reclaiming the American Dream, a report released Saturday by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), salutes great work accomplished in previous decades but supports redesign of how these institutions pursue their collective missions amidst a rapidly changing 21st-Century.
The report addresses emerging dilemmas modern community colleges face, including how economic uncertainties are challenging educational leaders to reimagine and redefine institutional objectives.
Developed by AACC’s 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, the report and its wholesale recommendations were assembled by a team of 38 key leaders from across the country. Heartland Community College president Dr. Allen Goben is a member of the national commission.
“Community colleges are unique in creating opportunities for achievement among students of all ages, backgrounds, and interests while serving our communities and society,” Goben said. “The Commission’s work addresses recent, vast societal changes and provides a blueprint to help America realign our strong abilities across all educational sectors and employers so that coherent, relevant, and high-impact career paths will be more strongly supported. Whether employers hire our graduates or leverage our colleges for ongoing training, partnering effectively will advance community colleges as an exceptional return on investment by fueling positive socio-economic mobility at the personal, organizational, community, state, and national level. Equally important are partnerships and alignment across K-12 schools and universities. Just as the Founding Fathers of our country demonstrated, we are all in this together and we must all work together to create a positive future.”
Heartland Community College is already earning national recognition for its student and community success initiatives, putting it ahead of the curve with regard to several of the report’s recommendations—specifically, those focusing on powerful local, regional, and national partnerships.
“The entire Heartland team and all of our community partners can be proud of what we’ve already accomplished here in Central Illinois,” Goben said. “Like our colleagues at community colleges across Illinois and around the nation, we’re changing lives every day in positive ways through passionate educators, strategic relationships, and resourceful collaboration. While our Heartland GPS: Guided Path to Success effort is still developing, it is already becoming a leading model for career, college and life planning. We’ve anchored this effort right where the Commission recommends we should focus. It is all about maintaining access to opportunities while systemically structuring our college to support student learning success and life achievement. It’s a culture of high expectations and high support.”
The AACC report accurately emphasizes the connection between education and American prosperity, and how education and history have on several occasions come together to inject new energy into the American way of life. Additionally, the report explains why education is typically not a partisan issue, because American legislative leaders understand the more educated its citizens are, the more likely they are to be employed, earn a good living, support a family, pay taxes, and contribute to their community.
“Community colleges across the country continue to empower and energize the communities they serve,” Goben continued. “By invigorating economies, reducing crime rates, and improving the health and wellness of area citizens, Heartland Community College and institutions like it will continue to play significant roles rejuvenating opportunities to achieve the American Dream.”
The 21st-Century Commission is not the first to take up the challenges and opportunities facing American community colleges. The newly released AACC report follows in the tradition of two other major reports: The 1947 report of the Truman Commission envisioned community colleges as a mechanism to make higher education available to all and created the modern comprehensive community college. And, the 1988 report of the Commission on the Future of the Community College set forth an agenda to strengthen the community college role in building communities. The 2012 Commission report harkens back to the Truman Commission Report, though, in that it calls for a tremendous realignment to modern and emerging national needs so that the next generation may pursue the American Dream.
The AACC report indicates the American Dream is one of opportunity, community, and intergenerational upward mobility. In pursuit of that dream, community colleges have already been proven as a national asset, serving the country and its people well by creating opportunity, supporting students, and building communities. Now, however, community colleges must re-examine their approach so that they are truly and deeply relevant in the modern era. As American community colleges collaborate to substantively realign themselves with 21st-Century societal needs, new and promising paths promoting personal and community success are sure to emerge.
“As one of the newest community colleges in Illinois and in America, Heartland is fortunate to have a thoughtfully innovative and progressive culture—one that is sure to serve it well in supporting our society through the 21st-Century and beyond,” Goben said.
For additional information about the American Association of Community Colleges, visit www.aacc.nche.edu. For more information about Heartland Community College, visit www.heartland.edu.