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Study: Most Community Colleges Not Fully Prepared for Demographic Shift

By David Pluviose


A majority of community college presidents say they are only “somewhat prepared” for the rise of the “minority majority” student population, according to survey results released at the 86th American Association of Community Colleges convention last week.
With minorities outnumbering or posed to outnumber Whites in several states, community college presidents are concerned about meeting the educational needs of an ever-growing immigrant and racial minority student body. That concern was among many cited in “Community Colleges Today: The Presidents Speak,” a survey of 251 AACC-member college leaders on the most pressing issues their colleges face.
Minorities now outnumber Whites in California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas, and five other states are about 40 percent minority, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But, only 16 percent of community college leaders say they are “highly prepared” for America’s anticipated demographic shift and 57 percent are “somewhat prepared” to meet the demands of this rising population. Ten percent say they are “not at all prepared,” while 16 percent say this phenomenon is “not relevant” to their institution.
Their chief concern: the lack of a diverse faculty that can educate the growing population of Hispanics who are fueling the demographic shift.
“The employees typically have one profile; the students have a different profile,” says Dr. Robert G. Templin Jr., president of Northern Virginia Community College. “If you look at community college faculty and administrators, they tend not to be drawn from the very populations that they’re serving.
“It’s no longer enough to have some Latino faculty. We need Latino faculty from Mexico, Central America, parts of South America, because those cultures are different — just as with Africans and African-Americans,” he says. “Our metrics of how we measure diversity among our faculty are out of date.”
Dr. Charlene R. Nunley, president of Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., says the lack of faculty diversity makes the search for faculty that much more competitive. And preparing for the demographic shift is a monumental undertaking, she adds.
“When you change in this diverse way, you have to fundamentally change your institution,” she says. “You have to change the language skills of your frontline people in admissions, registration and records. You have to create international student offices. You have to change the art so people feel their culture is represented. You have to change the food — fundamentally change the way you do business.”
The study also found that community college leaders are almost universally confident that their institutions provide high-quality educations, but 58 percent say a lack of state and local funding threatens that.
Ninety percent of the leaders believe that “performance-based funding” isn’t an effective option for community colleges, and slightly more than 60 percent say it’s very likely that they will be able to keep their schools affordable, despite rising tuition costs and decreasing state and federal funding.

— The full version of this article will be available in the May 18th edition of Diverse.

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