A recent editorial from USA TODAY explained, once again, how vital community colleges are to America’s efforts to shake-off this bad economy. Further, it said that investments in community colleges need to be a central piece of the next federal economic stimulus package:
Consider these facts:
• Community colleges educate roughly half of all students but receive only a fourth of what’s handed out in local and state funds to four-year public and private colleges.
• Over the next decade, at least 57% of all job openings will require post secondary education but not necessarily a four-year degree. Some of the highest-demand workers get their job training at community colleges, including half of new nurses. As many as 40% of teachers get their academic start at community colleges.
• Community colleges reach many students four-year colleges miss, including 35% of undergraduate minority students and 39% of undergrads who are the first generation in their family to attend college.
• While many private, four-year colleges are seeing dips in applications, community college enrollments this fall rose by 8-10%. And yet in most states, the per-student aid is shrinking.
We can only hope this message is being heard by those who are deciding on the details of that economic stimulus plan.
An article in USA Today takes a look at the growing importance community colleges are taking in America:
Community colleges train 80% of the country’s police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians and more than half of its new nurses and health care workers. They are the go-to destinations for displaced workers and immigrants seeking language and cultural skills. Community colleges are where people most often go when they need to brush up on math or English before pursuing a college degree. And they have become increasingly attractive to families who can’t afford to send their kids to a four-year school.
The article goes on to discuss how community colleges are doing more with less:
In 2000-2001, the latest year for which Education Department data are available, the nation spent $140 billion on four-year public universities and just under $30 billion for public two-year colleges. That ratio has remained relatively stable over the years.
Yet for the last decade, enrollments have been increasing faster at two-year schools than four-year schools. Today, community colleges enroll 6.5 million degree-seeking students, or nearly half (47%) of all college undergraduates. And no one documents the expanding demand nationwide for non-credit courses such as English as a Second Language and workforce training. An estimated 5 million students are enrolled in those kinds of programs, says the American Association of Community Colleges, a Washington non-profit that gets data from its 1,200 member schools.
The article even goes on to profile a Virginia Community College student:
|Troy Cox, 39
|Blue Ridge Community College, Weyers Cave, Va.
||Transferring to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.
||Cox attended the University of Oklahoma after high school, but dropped out after a year due to drug abuse. “I got clean and sober in 2005, only to discover I had Crohn’s disease. After being hospitalized for a few days, life continued on. Since I had always wanted to go back to college, I did. The professors at Blue Ridge provided the necessary tools and great teaching for me to now be graduating with a 4.0. (I’m studying psychology so that) I can help people like me solve the riddles that make our lives. I also hope to one day teach at this level. These professors all do outstanding jobs and are the epitome of what teaching is all about.”
So, have community colleges reached a turning point in our nation?
Posted by Jeff Kraus