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Going Public

Tuesday, January 17, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kristina Moy
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By Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed

Budget cuts and fussy lawmakers have helped nudge more than a few public university presidents over to the relatively greener pastures of private colleges. But Mark Erickson is going the other direction: he’s leaving the presidency at a private liberal arts university to take the helm at a community college.

This summer Erickson will move from Wittenberg University, located in Springfield, Ohio, to Northampton Community College, which has a main campus in Bethlehem, Pa., and other locations in the Lehigh Valley.

Erickson’s career path is a rare one in higher education, but it's not a stretch. That’s because the two jobs, and even the two institutions, have plenty in common. And the similarities are growing.

Like Northampton, Wittenberg enrolls a large number of lower income students: fully 25 percent are first-generation college students and 25 percent receive Pell Grants. And as president of a college in an area hit hard by the recession, Erickson is deeply involved in local economic development and job creation, which are top priorities for most community college chiefs.

Fund-raising talent, however, hasn’t always been a must for aspiring presidents of two-year colleges. It is at Northampton, which listed "experience in and appreciation for the importance of fund-raising” in its presidential job ad. Presidents of four-year institutions spend more time on fund-raising than any other activity. Given shrinking public support for higher education, community college presidents may be heading that way as well.

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