The Context for Strategic Planning

From Access to Success: National Focus on Community Colleges

While the nation continues to slowly emerge from the Great Recession and again regain its position at the top of the global community, all eyes are shifting to higher education with attention on the community college as never seen before. Numerous organizations, agencies, and initiatives have set a common goal for the nation – to regain its prominence by having the best educated citizenry in the world, or 60 percent of the American population with a college credential by 2025. As a result, there has been a paradigm shift away from the access mission of the community college, to access merged with accountability for student success and completion. 

In order to contribute to the national goal, and fully support economic and community development in southeast Wyoming, LCCC must become nimble and responsive to the rapidly changing skills and abilities demanded in the 21st century workforce and citizenry. To promote change, it is vital we reimage ourselves by exploring a process-driven approach and system that leads to educational reinvention in our programs and services while adopting high impact policy practices for student success and completion. 

"… amidst serious contemporary challenges, community colleges need to be redesigned for new times. What we find today are student success rates that are unacceptably low, employment preparation that is inadequately connected to job market needs, and disconnects in transitions between high schools, community colleges and baccalaureate institutions.– American Association of Community College’s Reclaiming the American Dream: A Report from the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges (2012)  

This report suggests three key elements (3 R’s) for reimagining the community college: 

Increase college completion rates, improve college readiness, and close skill gaps by purposely aligning education with job competencies. 

Align the college’s mission to meet 21st century education and employment needs and maximize on partnerships to improve college support systems. 

Support policies and practices that promote rigor, transparency, and accountability.

Numerous other organizations and initiatives have emerged and are catalyzing the paradigm shift. These include efforts by the Lumina Foundation’s Goal 20251, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Completion by Design2, and Complete College America3, just to name a few. They join more seasoned initiatives such as the League for Innovation’s Achieving the Dream4 and the Community College Survey of Student Engagement5

A major driver of all of these initiatives is a growing corpus of research and evidence pertaining to the community college. Matched with the rise of predictive and action analytics, and supported by more robust technologies and data systems, we are beginning to gather evidence-supported best practices, understanding the pitfalls in our student’s educational journey, and better design and model for our own interventions. 

For example, after more than a decade of survey data, the CCSSE has identified five benchmarks important to students’ college experiences and educational outcomes6. The Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University has, in a very short timeframe, amassed an impressive collection of literature focused solely on major issues facing community colleges and student success7. The National Center on Education and the Economy (2012) recently released what is claimed to be the first empirical study to determine what it means to be college and work ready, forging new ground in identifying areas for improvement in curriculum alignment and developmental education8

In his most recent monograph, Access, Success and Completion, Terry O’Banion (2012) perhaps best summarized and clarified the work community colleges must embrace to meet the new demands for success in their institutions. Based on history and evidence he proposes a model for the student success pathway grounded in institution and student planning. This work provides a unique foundation on which LCCC’s strategic actions can be built.