The Role of Community Colleges In Economic Development

Dr. Jon Connolly, President of Sussex County Community College, explains the role community colleges play in the economic development of a region, and the important role higher education plays in building an educated workforce that develops a community.

7/29/2017 #3017






"We're pleased to be joined by Doctor Jon Connolly, President, Sussex County Community College. Good to see you Doctor. It is good to be here. Thank you. Describe Sussex County Community College. Sussex County Community College. I've been there about a year and a half, and I would say that first of all, it is small, it is truly community based. It's well embedded in its community in Newton, and in Sussex County, and it serves intimately that community for the last 20 to 30 years. You know, we've interviewed a whole range of college presidents in your sector, as well as in the independent sector and the public, you know, sector, and the four year colleges. What would you believe makes the county community colleges unique and special in this state? And the nation? Well I would say that in the state, and I really have been around, I have served in a community college system in Maine, Texas, Wyoming, and now in New Jersey, and what I really like about the community college system in the state of New Jersey is that they're truly independent. Every single one of these community colleges reports directly to a freely elected and/or appointed board of trustees. All of these  community colleges are in one way or another, connected to their  communities. There are other places like in Texas, they're really large systems. There's a chancellor, there are other kinds of connections, which frankly, interfere with those community colleges in being able to be responsive to the local needs. One example would be, in Texas there was the admonition that we shouldn't be purchasing materials from the local vendors, we need to be purchasing from Oklahoma and Texas. [laughter] You can imagine how that went down! Yeah, Oklahoma and Texas! [laughter] That's right. So... Not that football had anything to do with it? [laughter] That stuff! Or rivalries? Yeah, that as well. But in New Jersey how is it different? Well, the community college board of trustees provides the governance oversight for those colleges. And if the downstream effect of that is that the community colleges here in New Jersey can respond rapidly to local needs, and they can respond definitively. The bureaucracy here is really really thin. I mean you think, "Well, bureaucracy in New Jersey thin?" In the community colleges, it really is. Meaning you can get things done? Because in... That's right. My understanding is that in your college, you just actually created two new academic programs, excuse me, six new academic programs? Yes. Which is not easy to do if you have a thick, heavy,  cumbersome bureaucracy? That's right. That's right. When I first arrived, I..."