The purpose of this study was to discern the nature of legislators' perceptions about community colleges' abilities to generate revenues through alternative funding sources and the resultant effects on state allocations to these colleges. Selected community college-related staff members and legislative staff members in Idaho and Oregon were asked to independently name three to five Idaho and Oregon legislators whom they perceived as having the most influence on community college funding. Out of the sixteen legislators who were nominated, eight were selected to participate in the study. The research identified: (a) important factors that influence legislative decision making which community colleges may affect, and (b) expectations of legislators about community colleges' abilities to acquire alternative funding and the purposes for seeking alternative funds. The following were specific findings of the study: Alternative Funding is a Given The pressure to find alternative funding for community colleges is likely to continue. Seeking alternative funding will be expected in the future by legislators even in good financial times; community college administrators should plan to invest in this process for the long run. Collegial Relationships Among Legislators
A significant implication for practice from this research was the impact various individual relationships had on legislators. Legislators in the study described how trusting relationships with key people were integral to the input they obtained and considered in
making funding decisions. These relationships included: (a) community college presidents and staff, (b) their colleagues, (c) legislative staff, and (d) agency staff. Community Colleges Must Let Legislators Know What They Want and Plan Ahead Legislators wanted community colleges to be forthcoming about what their long term fiscal and legislative needs, and legislators wanted them presented in priority order. Knowing community colleges' strategic goals and what their long-term plans were for at least five years could help legislators understand the larger fiscal picture and provide a better sense of where the future of community colleges was in their states. In turn, legislators could be watching for funding opportunities for community colleges, inform community colleges about consequences of plans they were making, and help community colleges do better problem-solving as issues occur. Educational Systems Need to Unify Toward the Common Goal Legislators were looking for funding solutions across the educational system. Legislators noted that they would have more confidence in the validity of the requests made of them if education entities -- K-12, community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities – showed the legislators that they were working together as a unified group. According to one legislator, educational institutions need to "marry" across systems so they'll "gain political strength." When systems plan strategically together, legislators are more likely to understand and plan for their needs. The legislators in this study exhibited similar decision making styles, perceptions of community college funding, and expectations about community colleges' responsibilities for acquiring alternative funding to make up for funding shortfalls.
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