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Survey highlights gap between trustees priorities and students

A 2018 Association of Community College Trustees survey shows that community college trustees have little in common with community college students. This includes everything from the demographic makeup of both groups to trustees priorities. While the national community college student body constantly changes, Trustee demographics have changed very little.

Of the 1,100 trustees who responded to the survey, more than three-fourths were white. On campus, however, white students made up only about 50% of the student body. Among trustees, 7% were African American and 6% were Hispanic. Hispanic students make up nearly one-quarter of community college students. African American students comprise 15% of the national community college student body. In terms of gender diversity, 55% of community college trustees were male, while 56% of the national student body were female.

According to the survey, the demographic disparity between trustees and students can confound efforts to ensure equal student access to college resources. It can also make it more difficult for trustees to understand and address the need of students.

The survey also revealed that more than one-third of trustees see “effective governance” as a top-three priority for community colleges. The other two trustee priorities were “funding” and “advocating for the community college.”

Funding is a higher priority than affordability

One potential consequence of the demographic divide between trustees and students is their position on affordability. Little more than one-quarter of trustee respondents say that affordability will be a key issue in the next decade. Yet the cost of attendance is only part of the challenge community college students face. As many as 6 in 10 community college students struggle with food insecurity. Additionally, a growing number of community college graduates are failing to repay federal student loan debt.

This plays out at WCC in the form of trustees who think nothing of raising student fees to cover the cost of the administration’s over-spending. Ironically, they have the authority to place limits on that spending but choose not to. Until the Trustees are better aligned with the needs of the students, the gap between the Trustees’ priorities and those of the students are only likely to grow.

Photo Credit: James Cullen , via Flickr