Dear Commons Community,
Community colleges “are in great danger of becoming indelibly separate and unequal institutions in the higher-education landscape,” a Century Foundation task force warns in a report released earlier this morning. To deal with what it calls “the increasing economic and racial isolation of students” at community colleges, the group also calls for major changes in how two-year colleges are financed and operated. As stated at the Century Foundation website:
“Education has always been a key driver in our nation’s struggle to promote social mobility and widen the circle of people who can enjoy the American Dream. No set of educational institutions better embodies the promise of equal opportunity than community colleges. Two-year colleges have opened the doors of higher education for low-income and working-class students as never before, and yet, community colleges often lack the resources to provide the conditions for student success. Furthermore, there is a growing racial and economic stratification between two- and four-year colleges, producing harmful consequences. Bridging the Higher Education Divide: Strengthening Community Colleges and Restoring the American Dream, faces those grave realities in unblinking fashion. Led by co-chairs Anthony Marx, the president of the New York Public Library and former president of Amherst College, and Eduardo Padron, the president of Miami Dade College, the task force recommends ways to reduce the racial and economic stratification and create new outcomes-based funding in higher education, with a much greater emphasis on providing additional public supports based on student needs.”
In an article reviewing the report, The Chronicle of Higher Education commented:
“Among its recommendations, the group urges states and the federal government to provide additional funds to two-year colleges that serve the neediest students, much in the way the federal Title I program works for elementary and secondary schools. In states where constitutional guarantees of education might extend to higher education, the report suggests that advocates even consider filing lawsuits to require such “adequate funding” of community colleges.
To “bring greater clarity to all types of public support for higher education,” the report also asks the U.S. Departments of Education and of the Treasury to jointly study how tax exemptions for donations to colleges and for institutions’ endowment earnings indirectly subsidize colleges—an effort that would highlight how such policies disproportionately benefit wealthier four-year institutions.
The report is premised on the notion that community colleges, which enroll about 44 percent of the nation’s college population, are in many cases not serving students well now and will be ill equipped to handle future demands without radical change.
Along with the financial recommendations, the report outlines a series of educational proposals. The proposals are aimed at shifting the patterns that result in four-year colleges’ enrolling disproportionably more wealthy and white students while two-year colleges enroll a higher proportion of needy and minority students.”
These are important issues which will resonate at community colleges across the country including here at the City University of New York.