“Simply put, our students today are older, poorer, more likely to be the first in their family to go to college – just like I was – and they are more likely to attend class part-time while working fulltime.” ~ Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges.
VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois called on community college leaders at the 2018 Chancellor’s Retreat to recognize and address the serious life challenges faced by college students, such as food and housing insecurity.
DuBois addressed 250 college administrators, board members and staffers from across the state at the outset of a two-day conference in Virginia Beach last week.
DuBois said the food pantries and day care services provided at some community colleges are a positive step, but he argued they’re not sustainable. “We need to be structured to meet the needs of those we serve,” said DuBois.
To make the point, the Chancellor asked audience members to put themselves in the place of an unemployed single mom looking for job training before her jobless benefits run out. DuBois challenged the assembled leaders to use their smart phones to go online at their college websites, and try to find useful information to help that mom in a few clicks.
“I admit I cheated a little on this,” said DuBois. “I checked it out on my own beforehand. Five of our 23 colleges pass the test.”
DuBois also sounded the call to recognize critical demographic trends that will re-shape higher education, and to embrace a future based on those changing realities.
“Beginning in 2026, we will see a decline in the traditional college-age student population that is more dramatic than we’ve ever seen before,” said DuBois, noting that the U.S. birthrate is at an all-time low, declining 12 percent since 2007.
That means community colleges need to prepare to serve more adult learners who are looking for job skills and short-term training programs.
“While serving 18-year-olds remains an important part of what community colleges do, it probably won’t be the most important thing we do,” said DuBois. “We need to help more adults – people over the age of 24 – earn postsecondary credentials.”
And DuBois argued that, increasingly, that will mean serving more working students who struggle at or near the poverty line.
“We have to create opportunities for these adults…that attract them, not intimidate them,” said DuBois, noting that the FastForward workforce training program is the VCCS’s fastest growing program.
“I know that not all of you share my enthusiasm for FastForward. Some of you consider it an aside to what it is that our colleges are paid to do, but that’s the wrong way to look at it.”
DuBois added that more than half of students who attained workforce credentials through the FastForward program have already returned, or intend to return to their local community college for additional training.
To view a video of the Chancellor’s speech, click here.
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