For all the discussion about online colleges competing with traditional higher education, the current rival of online education is mostly the community college. The colleges types are both open admission, serve mostly low-income students, and pride themselves on offering convenient classes to busy, working adults.

But community colleges, despite being dramatically cheaper than most online schools, are not doing so well in the rivalry with computer colleges. So they’re changing their tactics. According to an article by Marc Parry in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Individual community colleges can’t match the marketing budgets of for-profit institutions that plaster their regions with advertisements. So they’re exploring ways to fight back by going national, pooling their efforts to promote online programs in a new marketing collaboration that was announced Sunday at a distance-education conference.

The idea is for community colleges to pool their resources to offer more options to students, students across the country. Currently many people looking to obtain a college diploma often know online, for-profit schools like the University of Phoenix better than they know community colleges in their neighborhoods. This is worrisome, according to Pamela Quinn of the Dallas County Community College District, because “We want to make sure students understand their options and aren’t going into debt to get a degree.”

This is not the first time community colleges have tried to come together to create a national service. The article reports that American Association of Community Colleges spent four years planning a distance-learning program called International Community College. Facing the burgeoning online for-profit colleges, however, ICC didn’t really work out.

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