Tools to tell your story

By Martha Parham

Using data and stories together can amplify your message.

Community colleges presidents will often talk about their students, faculty and programs in a way that inspires and enlightens others. The stories are plentiful because community colleges are a place where anyone can access a pathway toward better—better grades, better opportunities, better career options, better citizens, better jobs, etc. These stories are real and the lives that each of you impact every day are changed in ways that are often immeasurable. But, sometimes there’s still a missing piece of the puzzle and the story alone is not enough to garner attention.

But, what if the impacts were measureable? What if there was information available that effectively quantified some of these stories?

Recently, AACC sent members a personalized glimpse of the students in their communities. AACC’s inaugural Field Notes is a snapshot of the nation’s students by congressional district intended to provide you with the data you need to corroborate your amazing stories. In Field Notes, you have the ability to see (and share) key student demographics, readiness, career interests and benchmark ACT scores.

AACC also has commissioned a national socio-economic impact study to measure the impact of the success of our students and our colleges. Did you know that for every dollar spent on their community college education a student realizes a $4.80 return in higher future earnings? Taxpayers realize a $6.80 return on every dollar the government invests in community college education. These findings are helpful to show local, state and federal officials that authorizing funding programs and services for community colleges in an investment in students and the community.

Sometimes the community college world is complex—funding, facility planning and usage, student financial aid, etc. These issues are often complicated and difficult to explain to those outside of our colleges. DataPoints takes a singular topic and explains it visually, providing a clear and simplified way to outline multifaceted issues. Recent Data Points tackled issues such as student outcomes, FAFSA application simplification, and student loans. Visually depicted, DataPoints infographics are useful when tackling these issues with legislators and community members.

Combining the stories of hope and perseverance seen every day on community college campuses with data tools help to amplify your message, and maybe amplify support for your college.

Continue the conversation on our LinkedIn group.

Martha Parham

is the senior vice president of public relations for the American Association of Community Colleges. She leads the marketing, publications, media and public relations, and oversees AACC’s 21st Century Center.