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$3.5 Million in Gifts to HACC Spotlights the Expanding Role Community Colleges Play in Educating the Nation

“Community colleges are no longer the stepchild in the educational family,” says HACC benefactor Frank J. Dixon. Recent donations to HACC as well as the increase in contributions to two-year colleges around the nation prove to Dixon that, “society has changed its thinking about the position that community colleges have in the education field.” Dixon’s most recent $1 million gift, along with a $1.5 million gift from Alex Grass, retired Rite Aid CEO and philanthropist, and $1 million gift from the Donald and Dorothy Stabler Foundation, are examples of partnerships that HACC and other community colleges form with business and industry. These gifts, according to HACC President, Edna V. Baehre, Ph.D. represent the “vision” and “forward-thinking” of benefactors who are “pacesetters in the world of philanthropy.”

Increases in community college support are “definitely” a trend, according to Polly Binns, Executive Director of the Council for Resource Development, adding that, “donors see that their gifts (to community colleges) have a direct impact on the quality of life in the region.” Because 80 percent of alumni live within a 25-mile radius of the campus where they graduated, donors see a direct impact on their gifts. This impact was echoed in President Barack Obama’s call for a national dialogue on workforce issues. The President, during a press conference held in May of 2009, pointed to the nation’s community colleges as “one of America’s underappreciated assets.” He added, “These schools offer practical education and technical training, and they’re increasingly important centers of learning where Americans can prepare for the jobs of the future.”

December 2009