One of the primary components of the pending Higher Learning Commission accreditation visit to Community College of Aurora is that the institution demonstrates value to the community.
That notion was underscored recently when Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan stopped by CCA’s Tax Help Colorado site while many of his citizens received free help with their 2012 returns.
“This still really is the higher education institution in the city of Aurora,” Hogan said after meeting with local residents at Lowry. “Certainly, we have a relationship with the University of Colorado at the Fitzsimmons campus, but that’s very focused and a medical connection. This is the community and this serves the community.”
The partnership between the City of Aurora and the college always has run deep. It’s evidenced by events such as Tax Help Colorado, America’s Promise, the Community English as a Second Language Program, the annual High Line Canal Cleanup and more.
It’s strengthened by the bonds forged in numerous committees, simultaneously manned by local government and CCA officials.
College president Alton D. Scales is a member of the Executive Board of the Aurora Economic Development Council, has heavy involvement in the Arapahoe/Douglas Works Program and Leadership Aurora through the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
Hogan, in turn, has had a nearly two-decade association with CCA, back to his City Council days and has helped with appropriations to the institution while putting key local political figures on the boards for the Foundation board and College Advisory Council.
“The city has changed so much and the college has changed with it,” Hogan said. “Bigger. More community involved. More diverse. More aware of what’s happening in the whole community college system. More willing to step forward and take an advocacy role. Just a whole host of things.”
One constant, though, is that CCA has been able to maintain and, in many cases, increase its quality standard while adhering to its mission of creating lifelong educational opportunities for citizens and working to prepare the current and future workforce for the job market in the college’s service area.
“We know people, no matter what job they have, will come here for more training,” Hogan said. “They’ll come here to take classes. They’ll come here to get their associates degree and take that step toward moving on to some other program.
“The fact that CCA has more than one location indicates that it really is Aurora’s institution. We do everything we can to be helpful. … because we want to be involved and make it work. It’s something that’s critical to this city at this point in time.”
CCA has engaged in a two-year, comprehensive self-study that has led to a closer understanding of the institutions strengths, challenges and opportunities. The document also hits on five main HLC criteria that are predetermined national standards the college must meet in order to gain reaccreditation.
One of those major tenets at CCA ties into promoting lifelong skills in the classroom such as critical inquiry, communication, interpersonal and intrapersonal responsibility and technology that will prepare graduates to become community assets as employers, citizens and the workforce.
Hogan is confident that approach has produced a palpable quality standard.
“That’s evidenced in several ways,” he said, pointing to infrastructure improvements as one evidentiary piece, adding, “This is a big city. There are 335,000 people here and a lot going on. We don’t, very frankly, have time to pay attention to institutions that aren’t worth it. When we pay attention, it’s because they’re worth it.”
One of the hopes that the Higher Learning Commission visit in April will prove unequivocally is that not only are students, faculty and administration steeped in the principles guiding the college, but that the community at large is aware of the benefits of having CCA in the service area to improve the lives of the population.
“I think CCA’s reputation is excellent,” Hogan said. “People are aware of it. They know the physical locations. When you get into providing services in the community, if you say, ‘At the Community College of Aurora, Lowry campus,’ they know how to get there. So it’s known, it’s respected and it’s value is constantly reinforced by the expansion in the number of students, programs and the recognition of the excellence of the programs.”