Unfunded Mandates Accomplish Little and Frustrate Many

Inside Higher Education (May 17, 2010) published Community Colleges' Unfunded Mandate. It stated “President Obama, foundation leaders and the heads of advocacy groups all agree that community colleges need to focus on more than access and drastically improve their generally low completion rates. By and large, these leaders believe that these institutions know, whether by research or common sense, just what to do - such as providing better academic advising, outreach to struggling students, financial aid to encourage full-time enrollment, smaller class sizes and so forth. So what's the holdup? Community college presidents across the country argue there is a great disparity between what is being asked of their institutions as far as the "completion agenda" and their ability to actually accomplish its goals - mostly because of dwindling state and local resources….” http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/05/17/completion

Another reason for the problem not mentioned by the article is the shift of developmental-level courses to the community colleges by an increasing number of four-year institutions that no longer offer them due to their own budget issues and desire to upscale their images. Rather than acting as partners in the access priority for a growing diversity of students, four-year institutions tell students that need some courses at the developmental-level to go elsewhere. Community college enrollments are already swelling due to the national unemployment increase, funneling more students for these needed courses increases the burden on the community college when their funding is either stagnant or declining. According to some community college leaders, the surge of enrollments in this area diverts resources from offering high-demand (and often expensive) certificate and associate degree programs needed by students and local employers. A few leaders now advocate that the time of open admissions for these institutions is over and some students should go elsewhere, wherever that is.

 Big problems demand widespread partnerships (2yr, 4yr, proprietary) with the resources needed to accomplish them. Unfunded mandates are cruel to those charged with implementing them since they are the ones harshly criticized for not accomplishing the goals created by those far above them. And students do not benefit any better.