Jobless Overwhelm Community Colleges

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An article in U.S. News and World Report indicates that the unemployed are straining community colleges across the country. While many educators tout continuing education as the solution for unemployment, the article indicates that many schools may simply not be ready to educate so many new people:

The crowds of unemployed people trying to get retraining have so swamped long-underfunded community colleges and other job skills programs that many communities now have waiting lists of six months or more.

The programs that are supposed to pay for retraining of unemployed workers are crowded even though the Obama administration has raised the annual federal training budget by $200 million to $3.8 billion in 2010 and added a $4.5 billion infusion in extra training funds in the 2009 stimulus bill.

The trouble is that there are now 14.4 million unemployed Americans. So with the stimulus money there’s still less than $600 available per unemployed person. A single semester at a community college costs about $1,700. What’s more, even if the money were available, community colleges simply don’t have space. Mott Community College, in Flint, Mich., has about 1000 people on its waiting list for job retraining. The Miami community college program is so overcrowded with unemployed workers that about 5,000 students couldn’t register for any of the classes they wanted in the fall.

President Obama’s American Graduation Initiative calls for five million additional community graduates by 2020. The country is going to have to do something about capacity and funding for that to become a reality.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer