“I don’t know that they’re going to be as active as the Obama administration,” Brennan-Gac said, adding that she is merely speculating at this point. “They might be more hands-off, and so I think it would put the onus more on community colleges.”
“I think they’ll do fine,” Stroup said. “Republicans don’t like creating new programs—they like working with what we already have. I don’t think they’ll do anything bad.”
The panelists also debated what changes can be made quickly to better support community colleges.
“It goes back to where the biggest costs are, how they can serve a larger pool of students, and making sure they’re using resources,” Brennan-Gac said. “It could be a needs assessment—look at priorities, and focus on that.”
Ensuring that students complete a community college degree is important, too.
“I think persistence and completion are things we all need to be paying attention to and striving to improve,” Stroup said. “Make sure students are coming out of community colleges.”
Amundson pointed to remedial education, which is “provided in huge quantities” at the community college level.
“That is simply something we have to address—that’s both a K-12 and a higher-education issue.” She noted that some institutions are creating a type of parallel institution to educate students who need remedial help and will not even enroll students until they are back up to speed.
Student competitiveness remains an important issue, and Brennan-Gac said having faculty with real-world experience can help connect students to what is happening with the job market.
Stroup noted that “trying to design programs in cooperation with the local workforce [is] what’s driving job creation.”
Amundson said there are some successful programs around the country that might serve as models to help repair that disconnect, including programs that look at ways to improve K-12 education, how to prepare students not just for a four-year degree but for all forms of post-high school education, and how to link education to the needs of a labor force.