For decades, community colleges have been pillars of intellectual enlightenment and economic advancement in their communities. They have prepared generation after generation of local citizens (both young and seasoned) for the workforce, and to transfer to our nation's finest colleges and universities. The fate of these colleges have always been inextricably linked to the fate of the communities that house them.
Why? In short, because that's where their students and biggest supporters come from.
So as recruiters, why do we often scoff at the idea of doing neighborhood block parties and community festivals? Why the heavy sighs when asked to set up an info table in a church basement? It's understandable with so much to do and so little human resources to do it, we have to be selective in the events we are asked to participate in. However, if we begin to take on the attitude that our communities are irrelevant to us, will we eventually become irrelevant to them?
Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "I would LOVE to do more community events, but I just don't have the time."...or you're saying..."But they just don't fit into our enrollment/recruitment goals for this year." I wouldn't bring this important topic up just to disappoint you. Here's a few tips on how to keep the recruitment of hard leads a top priority, but not leave your community partners in the dust.
Get buy in from the top down
If your boss doesn't think that nurturing those relationships with the community is important then it's going to have to be your job to tell them why it is. Start collecting some data. Managers are often trained to look at the bottom line when it comes to deciding on how to manage time and resources. Try keeping a tally of all the leads that you have gotten over the past few months just from CBOs (Community-Based Organizations). Also, identify the populations that they serve and match them with institutional priorities wherever applicable. Convince your boss that she would be a fool not to tap into these organizations.
Join a board or committee
While you may not have time to attend a lot of community events, another way to keep your fingers on the pulse of your community is to join a consortium of direct service organizations or even get on a board for a local non-profit agency (CBOs that provide direct services to clients are ideal). I've found these to be great opportunities to network and even gain prospective student leads. Share updates about what's happening at your institution and how it will affect the populations that those organizations serve. But also be prepared to listen. Find out what the greatest needs are in the community at that time. The great part is that these meetings don't take up a lot of time, as most boards or networking groups typically meet monthly or quarterly.
If you can't go out to them, bring them to you.
Host a consortium meeting or direct service event on campus (provided that you have the space available). Offer tours of your facilities and consider inviting current students who fit their clientele to speak to the group about their experiences at your college and how their education has benefited them. When your community partners are able to witness first hand what you have to offer, they tend to be much more comfortable referring their clientele to you.
What are some things you are doing to nurture your relationships with your community partners?