Just getting started

In 1983, Dale Parnell (holding paper), president of the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges, was invited by Rep. Carl Perkins (D-Kentucky) to testify on the reauthorization of the Vocational Education Act. (Photos: AACC)

Happy Birthday, American Association of Community Colleges!

It is a joy to celebrate the nation’s community colleges and a Century of Success for AACC. Together with our members, we continue to safeguard accessible, affordable and quality education for millions of Americans.

This article comes from the new issue of the Community College Journal, which AACC has published since 1930.

“The American Association of Community Colleges: A Century of Success” is more than a logo or tagline; it is a celebration of our collective work, and the team at AACC is incredibly proud to be a part of the community college family and to celebrate this amazing milestone with you. Born out of a need to ensure that these unique educational institutions were well represented in policy and political matters, AACC has become a reflection of the programs and services that create pathways to success for so many students.

A look back…

As we prepared for this year of celebration, we have been brushing up on our past. Historically speaking, AACC has accomplished an awful lot. What has really struck me is the way in which our history has had lasting impacts on the community college sector.

Walter Crosby Eells was the first full-time executive secretary of the American Association of Junior Colleges. (Photo: AACC)

In 1931, AACC’s Walter Crosby Eells wrote a book entitled The Junior College. This book documented the growth and curriculum of the public junior college, as well as its role in increasing access to higher education. In 1950, then AACC Executive Secretary Jesse P. Bogue published The Community College and advocated tirelessly on the merits of the system. His publications helped to redefine the sector and popularize the term community college, which we still use today.

AACC’s Vice President of Government Relations Frank Mensel worked together with Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-Rhode Island) to enact the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant in 1972, now known as the Pell Grant. Additionally, Mensel was key to the passage of the renewal of the GI Bill in 1985 and the Advanced Technical Education Act in 1992, which provided for federal funding that is still awarded today.

…and a look ahead

We are proud to celebrate those that walked before us, but we know that the future will bring new challenges and opportunities for community colleges (and for AACC). It is time, however, to turn our attention to the future. Community colleges are more than a tradition of excellence, they represent the future of quality, affordable higher education and relevant 21st-century job skills.

In the century to come, we will face challenges and changes. Regardless of what the future holds, I am confident that some things will remain the same. I know that we will continue to work together to adapt to an ever-changing environment and that America’s community colleges will continue to provide access to educational opportunities that level the playing field for many underrepresented Americans looking to advance their education, careers, families, and communities.

The anniversary of AACC has given all of us at AACC a chance to reflect and I hope that you will take some time to walk down our Memory Lane. As you do, please know that we are so grateful for the leadership of our members. We share in success with you and will continue to work alongside you to advance this unique, wonderful, and noble institution of the nation’s community colleges. After 100 years, I’d call it a new tradition.

Cheers to a Century of Success!

Registration for the 100th Annual AACC Convention closes March 11.

About the Author

Walter G. Bumphus
is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.