What Does a Community College President Do?

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A community college president is shaking hands with a diverse group of graduating students.

Community colleges are a vital resource for students who wish to pursue higher education. Community colleges have proven to be a cost-effective alternative for a diverse population. In the fall of 2018, community colleges enrolled 47% of all U.S. college students, including 57% of Native American students and 52% of Latinx students. Additionally, community colleges can provide students with flexibility and work-life balance.

For students with family obligations or full-time jobs, community college programs and online degree programs are often the most viable options. Community colleges help equip students with the knowledge and training they need to obtain gainful employment. However, these essential institutions can’t thrive without skilled and experienced leadership, which is where a community college president comes into play. Through hard work and dedication, these administrators execute a vision for academic success that provides a robust, cohesive learning experience to pave the way for students’ future career endeavors.

Those who aspire to become a community college president should consider pursuing an advanced degree in education, such as a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program.

The Role of a Community College President

Being a community college president is akin to being a chief executive of a company. It’s a leadership role that sets the tone for the school’s mission and campus culture and that establishes the school’s academic and financial goals. In short, the role’s mission is to provide students with the best possible learning environment while keeping an eye on the school’s bottom line. To succeed requires using all the necessary resources to drive continuous improvement and innovation in education.

Typically, community college presidents answer to a board of trustees with its own ideas about how the institution should run. The relationship between the board and the president is critical: If the board finds the president isn’t meeting its expectations, it can remove the person from the position.

The duties and responsibilities of a community college president include the following:

  • Appointing, supervising, and evaluating teaching staff and employees
  • Meeting regularly with the board of trustees, teachers, and department heads
  • Being a liaison between the board and college staff
  • Preparing and submitting annual budget proposals for the board’s review
  • Overseeing the college’s operations and academic affairs, including the development of the school’s curriculum and new educational programs
  • Keeping the board apprised of important or noteworthy events such as unplanned budgetary needs, staff changes, and policy changes affecting the school
  • Ensuring students have an environment conducive to learning, so they can meet their own academic goals and help meet the goals of the college (for example, graduation rate benchmarks)

The Skills of a Community College President

Given the heavy responsibilities of a community college president, they should possess a set of core competencies and skills to be successful, including the following:

  • Leadership: A community college president must be able to lead a diverse staff of educators and administrators to realize a shared vision and goals.
  • Problem solving: Challenges relating to funding, lack of resources, or public health (COVID-19) will arise. The onus is on the community college president to find ways to address these challenges so students can continue their education uninterrupted.
  • Financial acumen: A major responsibility of a community college president is preparing and controlling the school’s budget. They also need to keep an eye on enrollment, which is how schools generate revenue.
  • Collaboration: The presidency of a community college is by no means authoritarian leadership. To be successful in the role requires working with the board of trustees, teachers, and the community.
  • Analytical: Community college presidents are always looking for ways to do more with less. This means continually analyzing operations for opportunities to improve and optimize current resources.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual salary of $97,500 in 2020. The BLS projects the role will grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030, on pace with the projected average growth rate for all professions.

PayScale reports the president of a college or university earned an average annual salary of approximately $156,000 as of 2021. The salaries listed here are meant to serve as guidelines. Attributes such as education, experience, region, and the particular university all affect salary.

Be a Leader That Helps the Next Generation

Community college presidents have a large impact on students and their institution. Their hard work and steady leadership ensure students from all walks of life get the education they need to pursue their chosen career path. Educators interested in becoming a community college president will benefit from enrolling in a program that prepares them for a leadership position in the education sector.

Bradley University’s online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program emphasizes practical applications of leadership strategies, theories, and best practices. Our program provides hands-on experience, flexible scheduling options and expert-level instruction. Educators who enroll in Bradley’s Ed.D. program may earn their doctorate in as little as seven semesters.

Take the first step toward becoming a leader in education at Bradley University.

Recommended Reading:

How to Become a College Dean

Ph.D vs. Ed.D.: Key Differences

The Higher Education Administration Career Path


EducationData.org, “Student Loan Debt Statistics”

EducationNC, “What Does It Take to Be a Successful Community College President?”

Higher Education Today, 2020 Community College Snapshot

Inside Higher Ed, “Community Colleges and the Future of Higher Education”

Inside Higher Ed, “Pandemic Boosts Fundraising at Community Colleges”

PayScale, Average President, College/University Salary

Research.com, “How Much Has College Tuition Increased in the Last 10 Years?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Education Administrators

U.S. News & World Report, “10 Reasons to Attend a Community College”

ValuePenguin, “Average Cost of College in America”