Date of Conferral
Although growth in U.S. community colleges has been exponential, a major challenge accompanying that growth has been the source of funding, which has consisted of shifting proportions of tuition, local taxes, and state aid. The shift away from state aid toward fundraising, profit-oriented research, sophisticated financing, and higher tuition presents challenges and unintended consequences. This shift could threaten the community college access mission and contribute to a perception of higher education as a private good rather than a public good. With a framework of academic capitalism and resource dependency theories, the purpose of this basic qualitative interview study with 7 leaders from executive teams in community colleges was to explore strategies used in adapting to the changes in funding models. Participants were recruited using snowball sampling, and interview data were analyzed to identify recurring themes. Findings indicated a need for strategies to replace state funding; grants and fundraising were not considered sufficient. Strategies such as working cash bonds, prioritization studies, and differential tuition programs were reported to have long-term potential, but their efficacy remained to be confirmed. Restoring state funding would require that colleges align interests with legislators and donors, research and develop bold initiatives, craft successful communication and marketing strategies, and facilitate a culture shift within their institution that embraces the need for alternative revenue streams. This study raises awareness that rising tuition and education costs in general may threaten the community college mission, limiting access to higher education for students, especially for lower SES students who cannot afford the debt to fund the higher tuition.