A college’s smartest business decision brings a national reputation for racial equity and student success


Compton College was in dire straits. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges revoked the institution’s accreditation in 2005 due to severe financial problems and reports of corruption on the board of trustees. It took 12 years to restore the service. In the year Had the trustees not hired Keith Carey to serve as the college’s 12th president in 2011, there is a real possibility that reaccreditation would not have occurred. This proved to be indeed a smart business decision.

“The accomplishments of Dr. Curry and the Compton College community in achieving ACCJC recognition is not a miracle—rather, it’s a testament to what good, focused leadership and a committed college that wants to serve the community can do when they work together,” he says. Pasadena City College President Erica A. Andrijonas.

Since Curry became CEO, Compton has completed nearly $118 million in renovations and new construction projects. It has received more than $250 million for additional construction and student success initiatives. Remarkably, Curry has dramatically improved the institution’s business affairs while simultaneously establishing it as a nationally recognized leader in equity in higher education. “Racial equity is important to me as we transform Compton College’s policies, practices, systems and structures,” he explains. “We cannot continue business as usual because the student population we serve today is different than when Compton Junior College was founded in 1927.”

The lack of recognition is very sad. It’s a serious business problem. When this happens, colleges and universities are ineligible to receive student financial aid, grants, or other funding from the federal government. It also means that some students may not be able to find jobs that require employees to hold certifications and degrees from accredited institutions in careers and roles that are openly employed. Some colleges and universities eventually close when they are deaccredited. Fortunately, this worst outcome did not befall Compton.

Much of the college’s existence is due to Cary’s extraordinary leadership. But some of it is due to a bill proposed by California State Assemblyman Mervyn DeMilli, who is black and indigenous, after the institution lost its accreditation. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 318 into law in 2006, which provided $30 million in emergency funding and allowed Compton to continue operating as part of another nearby community college district. The year it was reaccredited, Curry received $11.3 million from the state to transition the campus into an independent college. He convinced state legislators of the institute’s importance.

Compton College is in the community where tennis megastars Venus and Serena Williams spent most of their childhood. Many other well-known black entertainers and leaders also grew up there. theyThe 10-episode Amazon horror series is about a black family who is terrorized after moving into a compound in the 1950s when the community was overwhelmingly white. The racial demographics changed over the next decade, once becoming predominantly black. Today, only 1% of its residents are white. Therefore, Compton College plays a vital role in providing educational opportunities to the more than 90,000 people of color who call that community home.

“Compton College is a phoenix, a shining example of rebirth and ascension, and an inspiration to all of us working at the intersection of access and equity in higher education,” said Los Angeles Community College District Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez. “This remarkable growth of the college is due even more to President Curry’s boundless energy and contagious charisma—a clear and strategic vision to provide the most disadvantaged students with outstanding educational services through his outstanding leadership skills and effective execution. Luck and Success”

Regaining recognition and maintaining access to a racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse community were just two aspects of Curry’s presidential agenda. Ensuring that students’ basic needs are met, conditions that facilitate their outcomes, increasing the number of students transferring to four-year institutions, and transitioning graduates into rewarding careers are his priorities. Student homelessness and food insecurity are among the most pressing challenges facing community colleges in California. Compton is an outstanding leader not only in the state but also nationally in responding strategically to these challenges through innovative programs, policies and partnerships. The college recently received $80 million in the 2022-2023 California budget to build a 250-bed student housing complex.

Some celebrities have publicly praised the institution’s existence and praised its leadership in equity. One of them, First Lady Michelle Obama, wore a Compton College sweater at the 2019 National College Signing Day event. “We are fortunate to have an amazing community college system in this country, and Compton College has a great story to tell,” she told the audience of more than 10,000 students. “The school fell on hard times a few years ago, but they bounced back, worked hard and are now back on their feet providing thousands of students with an excellent and affordable education each year.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom recognized Curry’s leadership in 2020 by appointing him to a statewide task force on higher education, equity, and COVID-19 recovery. Walter G. Bumfus is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, an organization of more than 1,000 degree-granting institutions that collectively enroll nearly 12 million students. “Dr. Curry has worked tirelessly to make Compone College the best place to serve its students and community,” he said. It is a model.

In addition to leading racial equity on campus, he is one of 30 commissioners working to address racial inequity at all California community colleges. Jointly founded black Student Success WeekAn annual series of events and legislative activities for community colleges across the state. He is currently leading a national panel of experts developing solutions to declining enrollment of black students at community colleges and four-year institutions. Last year, he received the Champion of Equity Award from the Chief Instructional Officers of California Community Colleges.

Compton College Trustee Sharoni Little has spent more than two decades teaching at Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, working with hundreds of executives, and serving as the Chief Corporate Diversity Officer. Among their wide-ranging administrative responsibilities, she and other trustees must make tough, critically important business decisions on behalf of the institution. Speaking of Currie, Little pleads with all stakeholders to hold each other accountable for fostering and sustaining an inclusive institutional culture without any commitment to ‘walking the talk’ about equity and excellence.

Naming Curry president 12 years ago was the best business decision the trustees could have made at the time. He is an inspiring example to CEOs in higher education (as well as those in the corporate context) of how to lead through difficult times, build a national reputation for what is right, and raise millions of dollars to grow an institution. Equity on an executive leadership agenda.



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