Looming Leadership Crisis at Community Colleges

A new report is warning of a looming leadership crisis in America’s community colleges. Nearly half of community college presidents are expected to retire in the next five years and the Aspen Institute report says new leaders are needed who can deal with challenges in funding, increasingly diverse student populations, and academic success, explains the Aspen Institute’s Josh Wyner.  “If you are going to become a president in an environment like this where states expect a lot more from you, where technology is offering a completely different way of delivering education, I think that we have got to ask the question, how are the people that we need at the helm of these institutions.” He says community colleges need risk takers. “We need people who are willing to take the risks needed to transform institutions from centers of access to centers of success.” States are making community colleges more accountable, says Wyner. “Dozens of states are now paying colleges not just to enroll students but also to complete them, to make sure they complete their degrees.  They have changed their funding systems, so accountability has ratcheted way up.” Wyner offers some of the challenging things that community college presidents must now understand and take into account.  “The leaders of the institutions need to understand, how do I make sure that I hold rigor really, how do I make sure they are getting a great education but in a way that acknowledges the complicated lives that many students lead right now.  We need people who understand how to change their institutions, how to work with the faculty, staff, counselors and everybody, so, that the systems are better aligned.” The Aspen Institute conducted the report.