The 4-1-1 on CCP's future

Generals Jr.
Generals Jr.
Posted: April 14, 2014

THE INCOMING president of Community College of Philadelphia said the school faces lots of challenges in helping to rebuild the city's middle class.

Donald Generals Jr., chosen two weeks ago from three finalists for the position after an extensive seven-month search, officially starts July 1. The Paterson, N.J., native comes to CCP with 30 years of experience in higher education, most recently as vice president of academic affairs at Mercer County Community College near Trenton.

Generals acknowledged that as a gateway to many of the area's four-year institutions, CCP faces several hurdles, including recent reductions in government funding, which have led to steeper tuition increases. The enrollment and graduation rates - both of which are down - are also priorities, along with improving the developmental-education program, he said.

Without offering specifics, he said the college must take a data-driven approach to boosting graduation and retention.

"It's hard work," Generals, 57, said in a recent interview. "You have to look at the details, you have to be very analytical in what you're doing. That would be my strategy."

In terms of funding, the veteran administrator said he plans to be a vocal advocate and work with others in the region to show public officials the importance of community colleges. At the same time, he intends to find new revenue streams by maximizing enrollment, something he has done at Mercer by developing and implementing new academic programs. The American Honors program at Mercer provides honors courses and support to students as a way to win admission to the country's top four-year schools upon graduation.

"The goal there is to extend the market to students who may not have considered community college," he said.

Generals also served on the board of education for Paterson Public Schools, which has a diverse population similar to CCP, where 58 percent of students are black. He succeeds Judith Gay, CCP's vice president for academic affairs, who served as interim president for eight months after Stephen Curtis, who served as president for 14 years, abruptly left.

Generals also comes with a few questions of his own. From 2003 to 2008, he served as provost at the New York City campus of Katharine Gibbs College, a now-defunct for-profit institution that had several locations. In 2007, the New York State Department of Education reported deficiencies at the campus related to faculty qualifications and remedial course offerings. It threatened to close the campus if improvements were not made. Career Education Corp., the parent company, closed most of the Gibbs College division in 2008 after it could not find a buyer.

The issue caused some CCP faculty to question Generals' selection, but he insisted those concerns were unfounded.

"The complaints, the issues I saw was sort of guilt by association. I don't know that anyone knew what I did personally," he said.

Matthew Bergheiser, chairman of CCP's board of trustees, described Generals as "a dynamic thinker with a deep and long-standing passion about the work of community colleges" in a statement announcing his hiring.

Generals said he is excited about the opportunity to work with faculty, staff and leaders throughout the region to move the college and the city forward.

"Metaphorically speaking, my door is open," he said, "and I'm looking forward to working with people for the greater vision and to move the agenda forward."

On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol

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