In 2007, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) initiated a series of conversations with faculty members, administrators, and other stakeholders, seeking input on ways to improve undergraduate biology education to better prepare all students for the biology-related challenges of the twenty-first century (http://visionandchange.org/files/2010/03/VC-Prelimary-Reports-from-Conversations1.pdf). These were followed by a meeting (July 2009) to discuss the implications of information gathered during those conversations (http://visionandchange.org/files/2010/03/VC_report.pdf).
Participants included faculty representing the diverse set of institutions that constitute higher education in this country: community colleges, four-year liberal arts institutions, state colleges and universities, and research-intensive universities. A document summarizing these findings is due to be released late this year or early in 2011.
The deliberation and summation process emphasized the importance of community college contributions to undergraduate biology education and provided the impetus to undertake this article. As reported by President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), George Boggs, “From relatively modest beginnings at the turn of the 20th century, community colleges now enroll 43% of all U.S. undergraduates” ( Boggs, 2010 ).
This article is meant to:
- Help readers better understand the structure and mission of community colleges and their increasing importance in the higher education enterprise;
- Encourage greater cooperation between community colleges and other institutions of higher education and initiate dialogs among them to find ways of easing student transitions, and
- Increase awareness of funding opportunities to support innovative undergraduate biology educational approaches on community college campuses.