Community Colleges, The Key to Your Future
Looking Forward: Community Colleges Envision a Brighter Future for All
Boston’s community colleges have provided educational and career opportunities since 1973. These institutions were founded to ensure that all Boston residents have access to quality, affordable education and careers that pay a livable wage. They are on the front lines of educating the essential healthcare workforce, providing them with the credentials for gainful employment. The missions of RCC and BHCC remain unchanged in an ever-changing world.
With a continued focus on innovation, community colleges have capitalized on unprecedented opportunities to foster connection, empower social justice movements, and champion genuine progress on our campuses while identifying new ways to support and strengthen the diverse populations we serve.
Strengthening Support Tenfold
Dr. Valerie Roberson, President of Roxbury Community College
Long before the pandemic hit, Roxbury Community College (RCC) expanded student support initiatives to address both the academic and personal needs that negatively impact students. Our focus has always been on our students. We remain passionate about eliminating the barriers to their success while ensuring that they have the support, resources, and tools they need to receive the highest quality education available at the lowest cost.
The relatively small size of RCC’s student body allows faculty and staff to spend significant one-one-one time with students. The bonds developed within our tight-knit community coupled with regular student surveys guarantee that we are always aware of current student needs, and poised to address them. As just one example: over the past six months, we noticed an increase in students struggling with food insecurity. Our team of dedicated administrators quickly secured a grant from private donor and distributed over 148 Stop & Shop gift cards to students in need. Boston’s community colleges need, and are grateful for, the support provided by private donors; adequately addressing student financial concerns requires support from private industry and individual donors.
In addition to our continued work addressing student needs, RCC has spent the past year accelerating the development of online courses and remote student support resources. A combination of creative problem-solving, hard work and innovation has resulted in over 300 classes being offered via online, remote or hybrid instruction. Additionally, students now benefit from online advising and tutoring sessions. The College has also expanded OER, through which faculty members replace expensive textbooks with free, online resources. The transition to a more digital learning environment will benefit current and RCC students for years to come: students can now complete coursework at the time that best suits their schedules, and are comfortable using all Microsoft Office products, Zoom and other tools that are used in the workplace. RCC is preparing the workforce of tomorrow for immediate career success.
We’ve proven to ourselves, to our communities, and to the industries that depend on us, that community colleges were built to thrive even in the most difficult of circumstances, and that we will continue to do so long into the future. Moving forward, we will continue developing innovative programs that address workforce needs, identifying sustainable solutions to student concerns, and ensuring that all Boston residents maintain access to quality, affordable, flexible education.
“We’ve proven to ourselves, to our community, and to the industries that depend on us, that community colleges were built to thrive even in the most difficult of circumstances.”
The Vision of the Community College Hub
Dr. Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College
Community colleges are the social, economic, and educational hubs for our communities. They are no longer a stand-alone educational institution. At Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), we provide access and ensure equity in post-secondary education across a full range of options—from non-credit workforce training to credit-bearing associate degrees and certificates.
It does not take much to disrupt a learner’s journey: a sick family member, a lost job, or a bad Wi-Fi connection are just some of the obstacles our student populations may encounter on a daily basis. BHCC is committed to the academic success of our students, and we understand that if basic needs are not met, there will be barriers or obstacles in the education journey. Over 50% of our students are food insecure; 14% are homeless; three out of five are parents, and half of the student parents are single mothers. BHCC has developed structures and programs to help alleviate some of these immediate needs.
Like a flash of lightning in the night, the pandemic revealed all the cracks and fissures hidden in the landscapes of education, exposing deep social, racial, and economic inequities affecting community college students. However, the pandemic also revealed an extraordinarily adaptable, caring, and creative community that summoned strategies to meet students’ needs.
At BHCC, we had to fast-track expansions of programs and services to meet the needs of our students further:
- The development of fully-online programs, a planned strategy before the pandemic, took on new urgency as we provided flexibility in the course delivery options.
- To address academic barriers that may have undermined a student’s achievement, we temporarily changed financial and academic policies to allow students more time and space to acclimate to unplanned changes and challenges resulting from the pandemic.
- We built on our technology and training support resources to provide on-demand academic support solutions in remote and hybrid formats for students and faculty.
- The swift roll-out of tools such as live chat and video conferencing provided new platforms to help students stay connected to their campus communities and one another, even in online and virtual settings.
- We carried out targeted outreach by chat, phone, email, and mail to specific student populations that showed signs of disengagement or were struggling with financial, technical, or basic needs.
As much as the COVID lightning has revealed the failure of our social and economic systems in serving our communities of poverty and communities of color, it has also shown us a radical transformation in the nature of community college environments. We have become holistic equity-minded institutions promoting community engagement, economic mobility, and ultimately, social equity.
Even though we’ve missed out on many of the face-to-face campus interactions we cherish for much of 2020, we’ve still gained invaluable insights into how we can do things differently and, in many cases, even better. There is no other sector of education with a better chance of achieving equity, economic vibrancy, and social justice.
The community college hub serves as a champion for innovation in education, social justice, equity, and support networks for our students to succeed.
We are encouraged by our students, faculty, staff, and community partners’ perseverance and dedication. BHCC remains committed to the quality of teaching and learning and the mindfulness in serving our students holistically. We can and will work to recover, redefine, and rebuild a brighter future for all.