Are Community Colleges the Next Frontier for Bold Architecture?

A core aspect of advancing our country’s higher education system is improving the community college experience for students. With 45% of all undergraduate students in the U.S. enrolled in community colleges, we believe that these institutions are critical to our country’s long-term success. But we’re not the only ones. Community college leadership teams recognize their key role in America’s education system and are working hard to improve in every way they can. Offering as many resources, degree programs, and technologies as possible for their students.

But their funding often prioritizes classroom spaces over community spaces. Overlooking the value that social and wellness spaces bring to a student’s overall academic well-being.

A Better Campus

For community colleges whose buildings are 30 to 40 years old (or older), a refreshed facility is necessary not only from a practical standpoint but from a symbolic one as well. These old buildings are often more like bunkers surrounded by asphalt parking lots, rather than an open campus feel.

Like many four-year institutions, community colleges are interested in creating campuses where students learn, linger, and interact. A desire driven by studies showing that students who stay longer on campus are more likely to graduate. So naturally, they see their campuses as opportunities to engage the culture of a place. This is where an architecture firm can really add value.

Another huge part of rehabilitating buildings on campus or building new ones (and a large reason why community colleges may be leaning on architectural expertise) is ensuring that these buildings are meeting more rigorous energy-efficiency standards – so that campuses can be sustainable, yes, but also so colleges can save as much money on operating costs as possible.

Experiential Learning

Community colleges are no doubt on the front lines of experiential learning – and have been for years. Since vocational training is an integral part of their mission, community colleges are very familiar with the types of dynamic active-learning spaces that four-year institutions are beginning to embrace. Because of this, their facilities must replicate and complement the variety of cutting-edge working environments their students will one day encounter.

But beyond the opportunity to create forward-thinking, risk-taking architecture, community colleges offer a potentially more rewarding challenge to the designer. A beautifully designed building conveys a simple message: community colleges matter.