Taking care of (unfinished) business

You have all heard me talk about our colleges being laser-focused on student success initiatives and progress. Efforts to increase student success have been a hallmark in the recent history of the community college and should be widely commended.

Specifically, these efforts are focused on programs of study that provide the education and skills students need to enter the workforce and earn a family sustaining wage. At the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), we have worked with you to design, implement and advocate for critical program resources in support of these success efforts.

We have led sustained efforts in building the AACC Pathways network and are embarking upon significant work to increase the number of apprentices in the nation in the next three years by almost 20,000. We have worked to develop partnerships with key agencies and legislators to advance the work of the community college and will continue to do so despite politics and party lines. The programs and services in place at your colleges each and every day support the efforts of the 12 million students working to achieve their goals and we are proud to share in your efforts.

This article comes from the April/May issue of AACC’s Community College Journal.

Yet, despite these national, regional and local efforts, achievement gaps remain and we have to ask ourselves the difficult question of why. We have to inquire if the efforts to increase student completion rates and success measures are truly working if only certain types of students succeed.

A moral imperative

It’s a subject I have thought a lot about and heard a lot about from you. I thought about access. Our colleges are the gateway to the middle class and provide educational opportunities to those that can benefit. In fact, one of the primary tenets that arches across our multiple missions is access. In my thoughts, I wondered that if certain students are not achieving their goals, then is it true access that we provide? So, now what?

These achievement gaps represent what we are calling Unfinished Business. Unfinished Business will be a major focus for AACC and the community college sector in the coming years. Unfinished Business is both simple and complex. Simply put, Unfinished Business will look at the achievement gaps and try to identify the equity issues that continue to impede completion goals.

As you well know, these issues are complex, multi-faceted and very personal. Equity issues plague our colleges in different ways, but their DNA is similar. These gaps may not look the same across the country but they do share a fundamental part of keeping some students from achieving their educational goals.

AACC’s Unfinished Business will not identify each issue faced by our students, but it will strive to identify how equity issues impact success and completion. At the heart of AACC’s Unfinished Business is a moral imperative for fairness and inclusion.

Unfinished Business will not simply identify barriers, but will seek out stellar practices and create tools that will help transform how we think and create solutions for all of our students. I hope that you will join us in these efforts so that together we can realize the power of true access for all of our students now and in the future.

Related article: Providing an equal chance at success

About the Author

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