Three Takeaways: Complete College America Annual Convening

VIEW FROM MY NEW LENS

I’ve just returned from last week’s annual Complete College America (CCA) convening in New Orleans. It was a terrific event, attended by leading voices in higher education from across the country. Although I have participated in previous CCA meetings as a CCA staff member or as an appointed state liaison, this was my first time attending on behalf of Faculty Guild. My new perspective brings new insights. Here are three takeaways:

ON EQUITY

Richard Reeves, author of Dream Hoarders and a Brookings Senior Fellow, gave a powerful keynote where he discussed class-based inequities in American society and how they translate into higher education. He called on everyone to address these problems and be a part of the solution. Complete College America, and other organizations, are working to shed light on equity issues for students. Steps to close these gaps are laudable.

Faculty Guild sees how equity issues are also at play in the faculty realm in a way that impacts students. Some examples:

  • Students need to see more faculty in the classroom who look like them.

  • We need to do more to educate our faculty about today’s students and actions that close the equity gap.

  • Adjunct faculty, in particular, need more support to be better positioned to help students thrive academically.

  • We need to change the incentive structure, to better encourage faculty to attend to equity issues in the classroom.

ON FACULTY

There was a breakout session on faculty development and related comments sprinkled across the main sessions and panel discussions. Panelists noted that as we focus on improving student success, faculty must be integrated into efforts.

Faculty Guild believes faculty are a key part of the solution. We seek to tap into the inherent motivation and passion of faculty members to spur the completion work. We believe you start by understanding where faculty are positioned and bring them into completion efforts in a way that provides sufficient education and agency to positively affect the outcomes.

ON THE NEW ACADEMY

Complete College America announced that over the next year, the new CCA Fellows, composed of top leaders in higher education, will work together to rethink some of the core tenets of the higher education system to better align to students’ needs and to better support student success.

There are many good ideas already on the table to consider, from Cathy Davidson’s New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Fluxto the recently released American Academy of Arts and Sciences report, The Future of Undergraduate Education, the Future of America, and more.

Faculty Guild believes it would be good to consider how institutional structures, resources, and incentives address the faculty we have today - 50% of today’s faculty nationally are adjuncts or part-time contingent.[1] At community colleges, this rate jumps to 70%.[2] We need to identify and change systems that may hinder faculty, at all levels, from learning about and collaborating in the completion work.

My thanks to those who made the Complete College America annual convening possible. It was great to be challenged in new ways and to connect with the many other stakeholders working to bring change at scale.

[1] American Association of University Professors

[2]  Center for Community College Student Engagement. (2014). Contingent Commitments: Bringing Part-Time Faculty into Focus. https://www.ccsse.org/docs/PTF_Special_Report.pdf.