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Alabama's Black community colleges join forces to increase education access

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Thursday, January 25, 2024   

Black community colleges across Alabama are teaming up to expand their reach in the state.

Chandra Scott is executive director of nonprofit organization Alabama Possible, a group that aims to bridge gaps in poverty and higher education.

She highlighted the historical oversight of these schools, which often receive inadequate funding and support.

To change this, she said they are working to elevate the significance of these institutions and their contributions to education accessibility, the workforce, and student assistance.

A major step in achieving this is the inaugural gathering of the Historically Black and Predominately Black Community College Network at the EmpowerED Conference.

"I think for so long there's been a narrative created around shame," said Scott, "for those institutions - like, you didn't make it to the four-year institution so you had to settle for a two-year degree. And that is not the case. They really do set the groundwork for a lot of students to be very successful."

Scott said the two-day conference will take place in Mobile at the Mobile Marriot on February 8 and 9.

She said attendees can expect informative breakout sessions on various topics including STEM education, HBCC's, PBCC's, affirmative action and campus inclusivity.

They will also hear from keynote speakers and a student panel.

Scott said another vital aspect of the conference is the release of case studies examining Alabama's eight historically and predominately black community colleges.

She noted these studies aim to fill the research void surrounding the impact of these campuses on their communities.

"We're hoping that this is kind of a launching pad for lots of great things," said Scott, "that could begin to be elevated that are already happening at these campuses in supporting students who come from under-resourced families - students of color, first generation, adult learners. I mean every population you can think of."

She said now more than ever, this data and conference hold immense importance as community college enrollment has seen a decline nationwide and the need for skilled workers in Alabama continues to rise.

She said numbers for these colleges have risen, but the National Center for Education Statistics reports a decrease in community college enrollment from approximately 11 million students in 2010 to 6.7 million in the 2021-2022 school year.




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