Years ago, when times were a bit hard, I used to say to my children “It’s OK, we’re tough, we’ll get through this!” This outlook now permeates my role as a community college President who firmly believes that our sector of higher education is a miracle of resilience. We are so used to dealing with the challenge of hard times, most of us accept the challenge simply as a matter of course. Rolling up one’s sleeves to deal with the current challenges – funding shortfalls, enrollment gaps, outdated equipment – is all in a day’s work!

This type of grit arises from decades of struggles translating into community college campuses that are not just made up of buildings. They are living, breathing entities shaped by dedicated individuals collaborating to accomplish great things for students. If the past few years of COVID drama and trauma have taught us anything, it is that we are stronger, tougher, and more resilient than the world around us credits us and even more so, when we work in partnership with those who have not only come to believe in us but who now invest in us. And among the greatest community college partners are the generous donors who invest in our communities by investing in our students.

This topic is on my mind as I reflect on a pleasant holiday event. We held a lovely reception at my home to personally thank the members of CCBC’s Presidents Club who, through their continued philanthropic generosity, support our students, faculty, staff, and community. This dedicated group of 244 supportive individuals raised an astonishing $732,395 to assist the college in helping thousands of students expand their horizons and forge new paths to change the world. Our community college colleagues across the country rely on this kind of generosity to provide scholarships, expand academic programming and build out state-of-the-art facilities.

Philanthropic support greatly influences the success, innovation, and sustainability of community colleges, which are traditionally and sadly lacking in funds. Although many community colleges struggle to mount Institutional Advancement efforts, a number of us rely on the skilled staff of that office to work tirelessly to cultivate and maximize philanthropic support. We at CCBC are among the colleges blessed in this way. The community college sector is still too often considered the sad orphan child from the wrong side of the ivory tower guaranteeing that we lack the long legacy lists of philanthropic supporters so often enjoyed by our four-year partners. In truth, however, our students may deserve that level of investment support even more than their four-year peers. Since 95% of community college students will remain to live and work in their communities, an investment in a community college is an investment in the community.

As many community colleges are underfunded, donors play a pivotal role in shaping their narratives, driving positive change and empowering students to reach their full potential. Philanthropy enables community colleges to support the welfare of students who may not otherwise receive the education they dream of. The best educational delivery system is one that harnesses the power of government, business, community, and education to create a supply chain that puts well-trained and well-educated people into the jobs which our communities, our region and our state need. Dedicated benefactors help to keep the gears well-greased, ensuring the smooth operation of the community college machine.