This research report illustrates the importance of building a strategic endowment plan for a community college.

  • A community college, commonly referred to as a junior college until the 1970s, continues to be an important part of our educational system in the United States
  • Community colleges will continue to experience enrollment declines and government cutbacks; ongoing reviews of strategic and financial plans will be needed as these colleges experience greater scholarship and infrastructure needs.
  • Community colleges will need to assess and maximize both their fundraising plans and endowment growth plans, similar to four-year colleges.

In this report, we begin with an overview of the community college sector, as well as a discussion of industry trends. We examine fundraising and endowment management strategies, which are becoming more important to these institutions in the current environment. We also review the benefits of using fundraising foundations as part of a community college’s development and endowment management efforts. We include a new discussion on the importance of building a strategic endowment plan, which is an important tool for community colleges that seek to grow their endowment funds through a holistic approach.

Finally, we share the results of our independent research of 191 community colleges in the greater Northeastern United States (12 states), using a universe of colleges that is consistent with the list maintained by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Our study included looking at the use of separate foundations by community colleges as both a fundraising and endowment management vehicle. For our study, a community college is defined as a public, private (not-for-profit), and for-profit institution that offers two-year, associate’s degree programs. Many of our insights on community colleges can be applied to other similar institutions across the nation.

Our key points: 

  • Community colleges will continue to be an important educational option.
  • Community colleges will continue to experience enrollment declines and
    government cutbacks. Ongoing reviews of strategic and financial plans will be
    needed as these colleges experience greater scholarship and infrastructure needs.
  • Community colleges will need to assess and maximize both their fundraising plans
    and endowment growth plans, similar to four-year colleges.
  • Community colleges can maximize their foundations through the development
    of a strategic endowment plan (SEP). The SEP can help formulate a long-term
    endowment growth plan, which includes both investment and fundraising
    strategies.

Overview of the community college sector: Community college facts and figures
Community colleges have been an important part of the U.S. educational system since the first community college, Joliet Junior College (IL), was founded in 1916. Until the 1970s, community colleges were commonly referred to as “junior colleges.” However, that term has evolved to mean a private, two-year institution, while a community college has evolved to describe publicly funded two-year institutions. Community colleges primarily attract and accept students from the local community, have an open admissions policy, and are often supported by local tax revenue.

Please see disclosures at the end of the article for important information.

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