Access and equity: Are community colleges the answer?

In a recent Community College Daily article,  Metropolitan Community College Chancellor Dr. Kimberly Beatty writes: “Community colleges were built to democratize higher education — provide access to higher education to provide greater earning potential for ALL, not those who could afford it or came from the best neighborhoods, or those who came from the best families, or those who came from the best schools. If this is our mission, we should live up to it!”

Dr. Beatty speaking at a University of Central Missouri luncheon in early January (photo courtesy UCM)

The article — headlined “Access and Equity: Are Community Colleges the Answer?” — was published by CC Daily, an online publication of the American Association of Community Colleges, on Dec. 20.

In the piece, Dr. Beatty responds to current conversations about dual credit, public access to college and outreach to disadvantaged students.

Dr. Beatty spoke on the same topics at a Learning Day luncheon Jan. 4 for faculty and staff at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

The equity question

She writes: “The first equity issue: high school students often have the deck stacked against them that prevents them from placing into college-level courses. I’m not blaming the schools, the families or anyone’s ethnic background; what I am saying is that the data speak for itself: students from homes with low socioeconomic income levels are less likely to attend college. Students from homes where both parents did not attend college are less likely to complete college. And students from schools with low college-going rates are less likely to go to college. Is this always the case? Of course not. I’m living proof that while poverty can be a barrier, it doesn’t have to be.”

The bottom line

“For me,” writes Dr. Beatty, “it always comes down to strategic leadership.

“There is no other country in the world that has a system like the American community college, and as leaders in this industry, we need to walk in our uniqueness, build the capacity that community colleges were designed to provide, and build teams and relationships with our boards that can move this work forward.

“America is in an educational crisis, and community colleges are best positioned to address the challenge. Community colleges are the answer to the access and equity challenge, but we need leaders who believe it.”

To read Dr. Beatty’s article in its entirety, click here.