Saturday, July 18, 2009

Community Colleges Get Some Much Needed Attention

While everyone was watching the Sotomayor hearings, worrying about the secret reveal in the season finale of "The Bachelorette?" or just enjoying summer vacation, the White House announced a plan to significantly increase aid to community colleges.

According to Time's Laura Fitzpatrick, "President Barack Obama made a historic announcement on July 14 -. . . but you'd never know it from the crickets in medialand. CNN and Fox devoted no live airtime to the speech, which Obama delivered at Michigan's Macomb Community College, while MSNBC cut back to the Sotomayor confirmation hearings partway through. "

The New York Times' David Brooks lauded the bill, commenting both on the low status of community colleges, and the unsung, workhorse role they play, all the same, in the larger educational system. Among their many benefits is their potential to have significant impact on graduates' salaries.

But that's only if students at community colleges graduate, which the majority don't. So that's one of the problems that Obama proposal addresses. One solution: online education (which I'll tackle in the next post).

Nearly all of the press is noting the Rodney Dangerfield ("I Don't Get Any Respect") characteristic to community colleges. But for so many students, they make a lot more sense than university. As significantly, many university students who graduate with degrees in fields where they cannot find employment end up going to community colleges to learn practical skills that leads to a paying job.

Whether the proposal will be passed is another story. According to the news reports, funding will come from savings in a revamp of the larger student loan program. But that revamp has the government cutting out middle people who make a lot of profit on student loans, and who are fighting the proposal. If the student loan restructuring fails, then the community college proposal is in danger.

To see the entire White House proposal, visit

To see Laura Fitzpatrick's column in Time, visit

To see David Brooks' column, visit

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