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Columbia Business Monthly

A University For The Community: Communiversity

Nov 01, 2017 02:08PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Carol A. Moore, Ph. D.

As far back as World War II and the GI Bill, American colleges and universities have engaged in a social contract with the American people—one that views higher education as a common good. Our government supported American colleges both philosophically and financially because of the belief that education serves the good of our country. Specifically, post-secondary education provides us with informed citizens who contribute to the workforce, to their community, and to the nation. In the nineteenth century, the country supported land-grant colleges to foster high-quality, innovative agricultural practices. The mid-twentieth century gave rise to community colleges specifically created not only to provide educational training targeted at workforce sectors where employees were in high demand but also to provide an accessible path forward for individuals who wished to take the first step toward a bachelor’s degree. 

In recent decades the government began to back away from this social contract. As other social needs stretched state and federal budgets, legislators started slashing higher education allocations. At the same time, many citizens came to question the “common good” benefit of financially supporting post-secondary education and the value of a bachelor’s degree. Despite these questions and diminished public funding, research documents the fact that college graduates are productive workers who give back to their communities, vote in elections, and live longer, healthier lives. In short, they are better citizens.

As we continue to need an educated workforce, it only makes sense to support higher education, both philosophically and financially. To meet the demands of the workforce in the next 10 to 15 years, South Carolina is predicted to need 70,000 more people with bachelor’s degrees than we are likely to have at current graduation rates. Furthermore, as population demographics shift, those who enter our colleges will likely require additional support—financial and otherwise. 

I would argue that colleges need to be in tune with the communities they serve and be responsive to the needs of our citizens and our workplace. It is time for government and college to recommit to the social contract, educating people so they may become good citizens and contribute to a strong economy. 

A communiversity brings together public and private educational entities—along with other nonprofits and for-profits—for the sole purpose of meeting the educational needs of the community. It is a concept whose time has come. Columbia College has a long history of adopting pioneering concepts, such as admitting men to a women’s college in 1947 to meet the needs of returning veterans and being the second private college in South Carolina to admit African-American women. 

It is in keeping with this innovative history that Columbia College has embraced the concept of the communiversity alongside the historic women’s college founded in 1854 by the Methodist Church. Through our communiversity we continue to offer evening and weekend programs as well as online bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and we partner with eight technical colleges to provide a seamless path from associate’s to bachelor’s degrees. 

Columbia College looks forward to working with other institutions of higher education, with businesses, and with our local and state government to re-establish the American social contract to build stronger communities and a stronger economy.
Carol A. Moore, PhD is the interim president at Columbia College (SC). Dr. Moore is a seasoned academic professional with more than 40 years of service as a faculty member, dean, provost and president. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Biology from Montclair State University, and a Ph.D. in Marine Biology from Northeastern University.