May 14, 2009


NACC’s Kennamer Speaks at National Conference

Dr. Mike Kennamer, who serves as Director of Workforce Development at Northeast Alabama Community College, recently presented his dissertation findings at a national community college conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference was the 51st Annual Conference of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC), an affiliate of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), and was held in conjunction with the AACC annual conference.

Kennamer’s presentation was entitled, Closing Doors of Opportunity? Trends in Enrollment, College Costs and Direct Grant Student Aid for Community College Students, 2000-01 to 2005-06. In his presentation, Kennamer described his findings, which included an influx of 2.3 million new students into America’s rural, suburban, and urban public Associate’s Colleges, tuition increases averaging 40 percent, and student grant aid increases that barely kept up with the rate of inflation. Kennamer, whose community college education was paid for with a combination of Pell Grants and scholarships, called for increases in Pell Grant maximums to bring the buying power of the Pell Grant back to the level experienced in the 1980s.

Co-presenters included members of Kennamer’s dissertation committee at the University of Alabama, where he successfully defended his work in March and graduated May 9 with a doctorate in higher education administration. Dr. Stephen G. Katsinas, one of the foremost experts in the study of community colleges and Kennamer’s dissertation chair, stated that “Mike Kennamer's work to chart the changes of enrollment, tuition, and student financial aid--federal, state, and institutional direct grant aid, as well as loan indebtedness incurred--has produced an important, yet troubling picture. From 2000-01 to 2005-06, in just five years, America's community colleges have seen a 30% increase in enrollments--2.3 million new students, with over 1 million of them at rural community colleges. Sadly, the enrollment increases and substantial increases in tuition over the past five years overwhelmed the nearly $2 billion increase by the federal government in Pell Grants during this same period.”

While enrollment at U.S. community colleges grew by 30% between 2000-01 and 2005-06, enrollment at Alabama community colleges grew at only half that rate. In fact, during this time rural-serving medium community colleges in Alabama experienced a slight decrease in enrollment. Northeast Alabama Community College was an exception to this trend in Alabama. Northeast, which is classified as a rural-serving medium community college, experienced an enrollment increase of 26% during the 2000-01 to 2005-06 period, while community colleges classified similarly to Northeast as a whole had a decrease in enrollment. Moreover, from 2001 to 2008, NACC’s enrollment increased by 68%.

Katsinas, who serves as the Director of the Education Policy Center and professor of Higher Education Administration at the University of Alabama, is president-elect of the CSCC and has extensively studied community colleges and student aid.

Other co-presenters included Dr. David E. Hardy, assistant professor of Higher Education Administration, and Director of Research for the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama, and Dr. Billy Roessler, Director of Records and Reports at the Tarrant County College District in Texas. Both Hardy and Roessler served on Kennamer’s dissertation committee.

The Council for the Study of Community Colleges is based out of the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Members of the council include university-based researchers and community college practitioners who further scholarship on community colleges.

Kennamer also served as a co-presenter with Stephen G. Katsinas, David E. Hardy, and David S. Murphy, of Lynchburg (VA) College, in a study entitled The Rural Dimension of Federal and State Student Financial Aid.

Kennamer summarized the findings of his study in this way: “Between 2000-01 and 2005-06, enrollment at U.S. community colleges grew by 30 percent. Though the federal government increased total Pell Grant expenditures by 76 percent, or $2 billion, those increases were overwhelmed by tuition increases averaging 40 percent and the addition of 2.3 million new students. It’s somewhat akin to trying to feed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes,” said Kennamer. “In the absence of a miracle, someone is going to be left out.”

Though federal expenditures for Pell Grants did not keep up with tuition and enrollment increases during the five-year period studied by Kennamer, he did report that research shows that public community colleges continue to be the most affordable higher education option in every state.

NACC president, Dr. David Campbell, stated, “Mike Kennamer has done some outstanding research on the trends in federal funding for higher education. The results of his work chart a path that can be extremely beneficial to students now and in the future.”

While Kennamer’s study called for increased funding for federal student grant aid, he noted that Northeast Alabama Community College provides excellent financial aid resources for its students. Individuals interested in learning more about financial aid opportunities may contact the college’s Financial Aid Office at phone extension 437.

Dr. Mike Kennamer of NACC (left) poses after his recent presentation in Phoenix with colleages (L-R) Dr. Chun-Mei Zhao, Senior Scholar with The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Stanford, California; Dr. Kennamer; Dr. Stephen G. Katsinas, Professor of Higher Education at The University of Alabama; Dr. Billy Roessler, Director of Records and Reports, Tarrant County College District, Texas.