4 ways to advance the community college mission during coronavirus

Expert Insight

4 ways to advance the community college mission during coronavirus

Community colleges serve a unique mission in higher education, as leaders in education, workforce development, and economic advancement for some of the country’s most vulnerable populations. As campus closures and “stay at home” mandates proliferate in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, delivering on that mission has become both more challenging and more critical.

While a great deal of higher ed mindshare has been devoted to serving students in a remote learning environment, it hasn’t taken long for community colleges to step up as leaders beyond of the classroom, and in their communities. Here are four lessons from two-year institutions on how you can continue to advance the community college mission even when your doors aren’t open.

1. Rethink your parking lot

As classrooms and campus buildings close, turn your parking lots and outdoor spaces into resource centers.

Follow the lead of institutions like Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, who have turned their parking lots into WiFi hotspots, allowing commuter students to access the internet from their vehicles.

Or, consider turning your campus food pantry into a drive-through service, as Westchester Community College did, to minimize crowds  and increase access for students and community members.

2. Make career services a community service


Americans filed for unemployment during March
Americans filed for unemployment during March

Over 10 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the month of March, and many experts say that this is only the beginning. Broaden the reach of your staff in career services and workforce development to help your community—like your students—prepare for the potential of a prolonged recession. Record virtual workshops on job hunting, resumé building, and interviewing and make them available to the public.

Connect with local employer partners to gather intel on workforce changes, and then utilize the college website and social media channels to advertise open positions. Finally, audit course offerings and services that were heavily utilized during the Great Recession and ensure that you’re prepared for increased demand over the next several months.

3. Provide much-needed relief to those on the frontlines

Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are facing unprecedented challenges in combating the COVID-19 outbreak, and community colleges across the country are stepping up to assist.

To further aid those on the frontlines, make student mental health resources and services available to local medical professionals. Partner with other local institutions, your accrediting body, and relevant associations to find creative ways to deploy current health sciences and medical students in local efforts.

4. Share knowledge and resources across service area boundaries

Advancing the community college mission in a time of crisis means not only serving your students and region, but also your peers. Are you a remote instruction veteran with a robust curricular and pedagogical infrastructure?

Consider offering your expertise to another institution who has been recently thrust into the world of remote learning. Have a top-notch communication plan that provides timely, informative updates to the campus community? Share your intel and workflow with a college or community organization that’s struggling to get their message out.

How is your college advancing the community college mission?

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