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March 13, 2012 4:45 PM Who Should Run Alabama’s Community Colleges?

By Daniel Luzer

Alabama may get a new higher education board. The Alabama State Board of Education is in charge of both k-12 education and community colleges. The speaker of the state House of Representatives wants a new board, specifically for community colleges.

He thinks business experts would be best. Really?

According to an article by Marie Leech in the Birmingham News:

Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, and others question whether the Alabama Board of Education, which oversees both the K-12 system and the two-year college system, is too distracted and divided to do both jobs. They wonder if the structure of the system itself is set up to fail, and complain that two-year college presidents wield so much power that the board has lost control.
“There has been talk of different scenarios,” Hubbard said in an interview with The Birmingham News. “I am supportive of giving it to a new entity focused on what the two-year system can be, and who is not worried about politics. I think it should be an appointed board of business-oriented, industry-oriented people. We have to run this like a business.”

Hubbard’s perhaps got a point. Why are community colleges governed by the same board that oversees elementary schools?

Still, the state doesn’t have to run it like a business; it’s not a business, it’s a group of community colleges. Why not put it under the control of the board of trustees of the University of Alabama system?

This comes after several years of allegations of corruption of people affiliated with the community college system. Some 18 people affiliated with the system were charged with various crimes recently.

Hubbard said that the reason he wanted an independent board made up of “business-oriented, industry-oriented people” because job creation is “the No. 1 purpose of a two-year system and that’s what the No. 1 priority should be for the next chancellor.”

But it’s not really clear why “business-oriented, industry-oriented people” in Alabama will do a better job with the community college system. At this point they’re not every doing a terribly good job developing actual businesses in Alabama.

Alabama has one of the lower economic growth rates in the southeast. The state has the fourth highest poverty rate in America. Some 19 percent of the state lives below the poverty line. Only Mississippi, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia rank higher.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • stinger on March 13, 2012 6:44 PM:

    News to me that "job creation" is the purpose of the community college system. Here I thought it was getting people qualified for existing jobs. While giving them... wait for it... some education.

  • David on March 13, 2012 11:54 PM:

    Several current members of the Alabama State School Board are responsible for rooting the corruption in the 2 year college system. Mike Hubbard says he wants an appointed board. Of course he does...because he intends to be one of the people making the appointments. This is his way of putting his some of cronies in charge so that they can go back operating the system for fun and profit. Just like it was before it was exposed a few years ago and 18 people wound up going to prison.

  • Tired Liberal on March 14, 2012 10:31 AM:

    The role of community colleges has always been a dilemma. Business people sometimes expect highly specific job training done totally at the expense of the public and the individual student. It is a balancing act to make sure job-specific training is not done primarily to vastly increase the employee pool and keep labor costs down for business. This is a real risk if business people make all the decisions. Business people want job-oriented training with little attention given to general education and are happy to see these general education courses taught by minimally qualified and poorly-compensated adjunct instructors. Students want credits to transfer to four year colleges, but there is little quality control in the community college system.