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SDCC District Chancellor Reflects On Career Ahead Of Retirement

 June 22, 2021 at 10:14 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 For the past 17 years, Constance Carroll has served as chancellor for the San Diego community college district. One of the state's largest community college districts, Carol will retire from her position at the end of the month, following a national search for her replacement. Her departure comes at a critical time for higher education in California, which has seen a steep decline in the enrollment of community college students. Since the pandemic began now here to reflect on her long career and the many challenges that remain for the San Diego community college district is chancellor Constance, Carol chancellor, Carol. Welcome. Thank you. Good morning. Is there a particular achievement that you're most proud of during your time as chancellor? Speaker 2: 00:43 If I had to pick one single area, it would always be the people who have been hired because what a district really is a community college district or community college is a Collegium. It's a collection of individuals who are dedicated to improving the lives of students. So always, always the people. How Speaker 1: 01:02 Would you say accessibility to a college education has changed since you first began your current role? Speaker 2: 01:08 It's changed a great deal largely because of the advent of online methodologies that has helped us during the pandemic and has also helped us in general, since people no longer have to drive long distances in order to pursue a quality education, they can pursue that same education from the comfort of their homes. So higher education community college education have become more accessible than ever before. Speaker 1: 01:36 What are some of the major challenges that you see the district facing as you prepare for your retirement? The major Speaker 2: 01:42 Challenge for the district and for all community college districts is financial. It is no secret. The California community colleges, uh, receive less funding per student than the university of California, the California state university, and even the, uh, the K-12 so stretching dollars to make sure that high quality is maintained has always been a challenge for community colleges. Speaker 1: 02:07 The pandemic appears to have caused a drop in college enrollment across the country, a report this month from the national student clearing house found that California actually had the biggest drop in the nation of 5.3 percentage decrease from the spring 2022, spring 2021. And that's primarily due to a drop in community college enrollment. What are some of the biggest obstacles that you think are preventing people from pursuing a college education? Speaker 2: 02:35 The first one spiked when the pandemic spiked, and that was at the sudden conversion of virtually all of our classes and not just in the San Diego community college district, but elsewhere from an on-campus with some online balance to 100% online and now being reversed somewhat. And so, uh, there was an enormous challenge to make that the digital divide did not expand, but that students would, uh, receive, uh, equipment. So our district indulging in fundraisers initially to provide laptops, thousands of laptops for, uh, for students making the parking lots available, uh, for wifi and other needs that students may have. The second issue emerged somewhat later, and that is the job market. So many, many of our students lost their jobs during the pandemic that they have had to find employment elsewhere. And that meant that they were not able to make a full-time commitment and sometimes not a commitment at all to their education. Speaker 1: 03:38 As you hinted at many Americans continue to face severe economic hardships due to the pandemic, there are of course, challenges in the labor market and other areas, healthcare childcare are these problems that institutions like community colleges, uh, do you think, are they capable of solving these problems? Speaker 2: 03:57 The problems can be solved, but not by one institution alone. The three, a federal stimulus packages, the higher education emergency relief funds one, two and three have provided financial support was urgently needed so that community colleges could continue and others can continue their work. The good news is a district like the San Diego community college district has received almost a $100 million in funding from the, from the federal government in order to help with the situation. The bad news is that the money is one time. So it's not a permanent investment, but it has been one that has enabled us to move forward. Speaker 1: 04:40 No, the San Diego community college district has already chosen your replacement, Carlos Cortez. He's the president of the San Diego college of continuing education. What advice have you given him as he prepares to take over on July 1st? Speaker 2: 04:53 We have been talking about the various projects completion of the bond program, which I think is, is now pretty much put to bed, the rules and regulations, uh, legislation that's pending. And of course the intricacies of the four institutions that comprise the district. So we've been having regular discussions, uh, along those lines Speaker 1: 05:18 As this nation continues to recover from COVID-19. What do you think is necessary to bring enrollment numbers back to what they were before or even higher? Speaker 2: 05:27 Well, the economy will have to level out, particularly with regard to jobs. We're still about a half a year from stabilization. So, uh, as soon as the nation and as soon as California can stabilize the job market, then community college enrollments, the university enrollments will all restabilize. Speaker 1: 05:49 I've been speaking with Constance, Carol retiring chancellor for the San Diego community college district and chancellor Carol, thank you for joining us and congratulations on your retirement. Thank you very much.

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As San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll prepares for retirement at the end of the month, she looks ahead to some of the key issues that face community colleges across the nation.
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