SREB Commission Focuses on Critical Role of Community Colleges
Pathways from K-12 to Certificates, Degrees and the Workforce
Atlanta â€” October 18, 2013 â€” The Southern Regional Education Boardâ€™s Community College Commission convened this week in Atlanta, charged with recommending ways to strengthen the role of community and technical colleges in raising educational attainment in Southern states.
The SREB Community College Commission will focus on policies and strategies that hold significant potential to increase college access and success â€” and help more students graduate from college and enter careers in demand in their communities.
The Community College Commission is co-chaired by SREB Board members Joe Pickens, president of St. Johns River State College in Florida, and Tim Shaughnessy, associate provost for academic affairs at Gateway Community and Technical College in Kentucky. Both are former state legislators. Other commission members include chancellors and presidents of community and technical systems and individual colleges, as well as state legislators.
Readiness to succeed
Fostering studentsâ€™ success in education and work after high school â€” with a goal of increasing the numbers of credentials and degrees awarded â€” is one primary focus of the Commission. This means helping K-12 systems get students ready for college and finding better ways to help students succeed once they arrive at college. Studentsâ€™ likelihood of finishing a degree or certificate is directly related to how well prepared they are when they begin credit-bearing, entry-level college courses.
Pathways to careers
Preparing students for good jobs available in their communities today â€” with a goal of moving more Americans into careers that support families and contribute to their communities â€” is another key priority. This means creating pathways from the middle grades and high school through community and technical programs into four-year degrees or good jobs that are in demand in local and regional workforces.
The Commission will study data on the impact of effective pathways, ways to make pathways more transparent for students, and strategies to keep them on the path toward completion. It will also examine proven ways to align program offerings with careers that are in demand and strategies to keep those pathways current.
â€œWe are very focused on educational pathways that connect to job opportunities,â€ Shaughnessy said,
Students come to community college programs from many different places in their lives, and with different aims â€” directly from high school, as career changers after losing a job, to earn credits before pursuing a four-year degree, to earn certificate credentials for immediate jobs, or to complete a degree after years away from college.
â€œWe need to make it easier for students to see the goals that will motivate them to succeed,â€ said Pickens. â€œStudents have enough hurdles in life without us creating more."
The Commission will produce recommendations for consideration by the SREB Board in June 2014. Pickens and Shaughnessy stressed that the recommendations will be objective and nonpartisan and will focus on strategies that can be applied statewide and systemwide.
â€œCommunity colleges are a cornerstone of education in the South,â€ said SREB President Dave Spence. â€œTheir performance will be the most critical factor in meeting our goals for postsecondary completion, preparing more people for good jobs, and closing achievement gaps.â€