Colleges Compete With Other Worthy Causes For Financial Support
Career College Central summary:
Over the past few decades, public funds have dried up, and formerly munificent politicians are now beleaguered by hordes of constituents seeking financial support. Legislators charged with fiduciary oversight of municipal and state budgets increasingly demand that recipients of public money demonstrate return on investment. Amid greater scarcity and scrutiny, community college leaders have had to become better advocates for their institutions. Presidents and other leaders are expected to get buy-in from colleagues on campus and to build infrastructures for projecting influence in multiple spheres; they have to convene allies and build coalitions; they’re coming up with ever more complex advocacy strategies and they have to show measurable results.
“The old model was as long as enrollment was going up, we would get more money from the state,” says Noah Brown, president of the Association of Community College Trustees. “Over the long haul, say 20 or 30 years, state support as a percentage of our [community college] budgets has been declining. We are doing less well as a sector in capturing a percentage of public support. I don’t think that is going to turn around. Most of the people I know are not predicting that we will see a groundswell of public support like we saw in the ’60s and ’70s.
At times, it seems as if everything that once was taken for granted has changed. In addition to higher standards of accountability and financial pressures, shifting demographics and disruptive technologies are remaking the two-year college and career and technical sector in ways that are forcing community college leaders to become better advocates for their institutions. The traditional funding formula, whereby community colleges received one-third of funding each from local government, state government and students, has in many places become obsolete, with students now bearing half the cost.
When enrollments decline, the fiancial impact can be devastating. Some institutions are seeking new sources of revenue, recruiting international students to their campuses and offering online courses to learners outside their local communities. Those initiatives can open a Pandora’s box of legislative and regulatory challenges.
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