Community colleges are in the midst of a transition brought about by the numerous retirements of administrators and faculty members. Many of those now retiring have worked at community colleges since the 1960s or 1970s, a time during which community colleges grew at the rate of almost one a week. The rate of retirements has both negative and positive consequences. The retirement of such large numbers of dedicated leaders and workers will result in a significant knowledge drain as the collective wisdom of these people, gained through many years of experience, leaves with them. Perhaps the greatest challenge of so many people retiring may be the lack of preparation of potential leaders in the pipeline, because so many of the senior administrators who might have been expected to assume higher-level positions will choose instead to conclude their own careers and retire.
Conversely, the departure of so many people during the next few years offers community colleges an excellent opportunity to update outdated practices, create new workplace policies, and introduce organizational structures and models that promote greater efficiency. Vacancies created from retirements may be used to increase diversity in leaders and faculty and to be more reflective of the communities these colleges serve. Colleges are using this opportunity to create more inclusive staffs, and increasingly women and members of minority groups are being selected to fill leadership positions. Finally, this time also provides an opportunity to hire or promote energetic new leaders and workers with new ideas that will help colleges respond to the new demands on higher education institutions.
Community colleges rely on a blend of full- and part-time faculty to offer the broadest array of courses to meet varying student curricular and scheduling demands. Adjunct professors, or part-time faculty members, have long been part of community college staff. Adjunct faculty are typically hired because they possess technical skills and practical knowledge that are beneficial to students. Their expertise and workplace experiences help keep curricula fresh.
Staff form the backbone of all community colleges. Without the technical, professional, and clerical staff, community colleges would not be able to perform the vital function of educating students. With the great diversity of community college students, racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of the staff is essential.