22 Black community colleges are teaming up to improve student success
by Matt Zalaznick
A first-of-its-kind network of 22 historically and predominantly Black community colleges has banded together to develop new initiatives to improve their students’ career and economic prospects.
One of the PBCC-HBCC Network’s first steps will be to more thoroughly gauge the needs of adult learners of color. Over the next two years, colleges will work to better align their courses and degree programs with the needs of employers to boost the value of the credentials students can earn. The schools will also share advances in advising and wraparound supports such as access to nutrition, housing, and affordable transportation.
“HBCUs and HBCCs have been left behind and left out of the conversation about college completion,” says Yolanda Watson Spiva, president of Complete College America, which is coordinating the network. “If we’re going to get to our completion goals as a nation, we’re going to have to engage with these institutions.”
The 22 institutions in the PBCC-HBCC Network will form a national community of experts to share expertise, resources and technical assistance as they work to eliminate racial and age gaps in educational outcomes. One goal is to inform state and federal policies to better support PBCC and HBCC students.
The network will be anchored by Complete College America’s four pillars of student success: purpose, momentum, structure and support. For instance, students should understand their college goals as they work with advisors to plot out the best courses of study without taking too many credits, Spiva says. Colleges will also work to better supply students with basic needs such as academic and emotional support, housing and food.
One key academic concept is the “meta-major,” which is less specific than a traditional major—such as finance or economics. A student could choose business as a meta-major and specialize later without losing credits. The network will also help colleges more closely align their curriculums to the needs of local and regional businesses. “We find students operate best when they have momentum in college,” Spiva says. “If they feel like they’re in 13th grade, taking courses that don’t accumulate credit yet they’re spending money, they’ll become demoralized.”
Colleges will also be encouraged to rethink their course schedules to better accommodate adult learners who can’t attend classes during the traditional hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, Spiva adds.
The members of the PBCC-HBCC Network are located in 8 states:
Alabama: Bishop State Community College, Chattahoochee Valley Community College, Gadsden State Community College, H. Councill Trenholm State Community College, J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College, Lawson State Community College, Shelton State Community College, and Wallace Community College Selma
Arkansas: Arkansas State University Mid-South, Southeast Arkansas College, and University of Arkansas- Pulaski Technical College
Georgia: Atlanta Metropolitan State College
Illinois: Olive-Harvey College (City Colleges of Chicago)
Louisiana: Baton Rouge Community College, Delgado Community College, and Southern University at Shreveport
Massachusetts: Roxbury Community College
Michigan: Wayne County Community College District
South Carolina: Central Carolina Technical College, Denmark Technical College Northeastern Technical College, and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College
Approximately 13% of Black students attend community colleges. There are 12 historically Black community colleges and 49 predominantly Black community colleges in the U.S. HBCCs are institutions with a historical mission of serving Black students. PBCCs enroll at least 40% African American students and at least 50% students who come from under-resourced households or are the first in their family to attend college. These schools are designed to cost less for full-time undergraduates than do similar colleges. “Many in higher education don’t know these institutions exist,” Spiva says. “We want to elevate the work they’re doing.”