Higher Education and the New Capitalism: Social Enterprise Partnerships and the Opportunity for Community Colleges
In the current economic climate, driven by their mission of open access, affordability, and a desire to help all of their constituent communities, community colleges are under increasing pressure to service a rapidly expanding and increasingly diverse group of students with fewer and fewer resources. Declining budgets and a burgeoning enrollment spurred by the recent economic downturn have forced community colleges to become more entrepreneurial in the ways that they develop new programs and find alternative revenue streams. (Wiers, 2007; Dingfelder, 2007).
A critical concern for community colleges is that the business paradigm that fuels the increasing pressure to produce skilled workers and alternative revenue streams will diminish the mission that emphasizes open access and teaching at community colleges (Levin, 2001). The purpose of this study is to explore social entrepreneurship and social enterprise concepts, which are operational strategies originally designed for nonprofit organizations, as a framework for developing alternative revenue streams and innovative, demand driven programming for community colleges through the use of collaborative partnerships. The nonprofit social purpose framework that governs social enterprise is consistent with the mission of community colleges and provides a congruent paradigm for exploring entrepreneurial concepts with public institutions of higher learning (Dees, 2001).
A qualitative case study was conducted at Broward College (Broward Community College) and focused on the genesis, development and maintenance of the Marine Engineering Management Program. The program is characterized by a collaborative, integrated partnership which includes representatives from the college, the college’s foundation, a program advisory board and the considerable contributions of the local marine trade association and its’ members who own and operate businesses in the area.
Social enterprise and social entrepreneurship concepts, as conceived in this study, provide a framework for developing program partnerships that are comprehensive and relevant to the market driven environment in which many community colleges must now operate. The key organizing concepts of collaboration, accountability, sustainability, innovation and impact that were derived from this research and the literature were found to exemplify the Broward College program partnership and characterize a framework other community colleges can use to develop social enterprise partnerships.