Central Alabama Community College acting president Jeff Lynn held a virtual meeting Thursday with the ASPIRE 2030 steering committee to discuss CACC’s capital campaign. The committee will create a vision for all CACC locations over a 10-year improvement plan.
The committee includes superintendents, teachers, council people, business and industry leaders, CACC students and faculty, nonprofits and more. Those involved were introduced to preliminary plans regarding what CACC will look like a decade from now. Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) and Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) will co-chair the committee.
“We are all tied to improving each one of our campuses across the state,” Lynn said in the Zoom meeting. “One day we really want our college system to be the benchmark for others in the state and across the U.S. If we start where we are today and improve on everything we’re doing, we can get to that level.”
This rapid-fire process will result in a proposed report to be submitted to chancellor Jimmy Baker and the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) board of trustees by Oct. 16. Committee members were selected to help with the vision, strategic planning, organizational statements and goals for potential future progress.
“Without the community, we’re dead in the water,” Lynn said. “We want to get the community involved and listen to your thoughts and ideas.”
The final plan will incorporate chosen improvements and projects to seek funding for a capital plan.
“Expectations should include everything from technology to the way we instruct, buildings, activities for students, whatever that might be,” Lynn said. “We need to involve all of you in a self-analysis of identification of needs and strategies.”
Phase 1 will be an evaluation of CACC compared to other programs to grasp what needs to change. There will be 50 questions to investigate as a starting point. These include student success, community development, workforce development, adult education, financial management, technology, campuses, facilities and more.
“Phase 2, we will look at those plans and make sure they match all the input we’ve received from this team,” Lynn said. “It’s vital we begin this quickly. We need to redefine our priorities, detail planning for capital improvement and submit that formal proposal.”
Using a 10-year trajectory, the ASPIRE committee will look at occupational forecasting, population trends, high-demand jobs and other jobs being created.
“Quite frankly, other jobs will pop up in 10 years we don’t know about yet in this ever-changing world,” Lynn said. “With COVID-19, the way we teach, train and interact with students and the community has changed overnight.”
Chambliss and Oliver discussed the Legislature’s $120 million bond issue, which allows schools the opportunity to borrow money for capital projects and new facilities. All 24 community colleges in the system will be competing for the dollars.
“This opportunity right now won’t come along again in the next 10 years,” Chambliss said. “There is some $120 million available for the community college system and (CACC) is competing for those dollars with others across the state. Competition is good; it makes us better. We have to do our job in putting our best foot forward for the entire CACC system.”
Oliver said the legislature looks at CACC as an economic engine and feels it’s one of the more important things to do to advance the system.
“My goal is not to be the driving force for making decisions but really be the guy the quarterback hands the football to,” Oliver said. “Tell us what you need and we’ll do everything we can do get that, particularly when it comes to funding.”
As facets of the college system are examined, smaller sub-committees will be formed to address more specific ideas and areas.
“The timeline begins today and we have a lot of work to put in starting in August and putting together the appropriate package through the end of September,” Lynn said. “It seems simple but it will be a significant amount of work.”
The Alex City campus has many buildings that are extremely old and outdated and part of this process will explore the capacity and use of each facility to ensure it’s being used properly.
The Elmore/Autauga location is looking to be expanded into a permanent campus, which would be a huge draw for the area and for CACC.
“Right now we’re putting together some key performance indicators and looking at opportunities for site selection, land, buildings, transportation, location to various events and student activities and something that is built with room to grow,” Lynn said.
All around, Lynn proposed an enrollment growth of at least double and hopes to reach even higher numbers between now and 10 years from now.
“I think we can do that; it’s not a stretch goal,” Lynn said. “That’s achievable for us but we’ve got to really focus on getting better in all areas and departments and focus on student experience.”
Questions that were raised during the meeting included athletics, military programs, student housing opportunities and building compliance. All of these and more will be rolled into the progressive plan, which Lynn said has to be the best of the best.
“We have a finite amount of money across Alabama to use for community colleges,” Lynn said. “But at the end of the day all colleges are going after it so our package has to be the best. I want to charge all of us to work hard and be open and honest. I am available at all times and excited about moving forward.”