Who Should Run Alabama’s Community Colleges?

Alabama may get a new higher education board. The Alabama State Board of Education is in charge of both k-12 education and community colleges. The speaker of the state House of Representatives wants a new board, specifically for community colleges.

He thinks business experts would be best. Really?

According to an article by Marie Leech in the Birmingham News:

Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, and others question whether the Alabama Board of Education, which oversees both the K-12 system and the two-year college system, is too distracted and divided to do both jobs. They wonder if the structure of the system itself is set up to fail, and complain that two-year college presidents wield so much power that the board has lost control.

“There has been talk of different scenarios,” Hubbard said in an interview with The Birmingham News. “I am supportive of giving it to a new entity focused on what the two-year system can be, and who is not worried about politics. I think it should be an appointed board of business-oriented, industry-oriented people. We have to run this like a business.”

Hubbard’s perhaps got a point. Why are community colleges governed by the same board that oversees elementary schools?

Still, the state doesn’t have to run it like a business; it’s not a business, it’s a group of community colleges. Why not put it under the control of the board of trustees of the University of Alabama system?

This comes after several years of allegations of corruption of people affiliated with the community college system. Some 18 people affiliated with the system were charged with various crimes recently.

Hubbard said that the reason he wanted an independent board made up of “business-oriented, industry-oriented people” because job creation is “the No. 1 purpose of a two-year system and that’s what the No. 1 priority should be for the next chancellor.”

But it’s not really clear why “business-oriented, industry-oriented people” in Alabama will do a better job with the community college system. At this point they’re not every doing a terribly good job developing actual businesses in Alabama.

Alabama has one of the lower economic growth rates in the southeast. The state has the fourth highest poverty rate in America. Some 19 percent of the state lives below the poverty line. Only Mississippi, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia rank higher.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer