Tight Times for Community Colleges

Crowd2.jpg

There are an awful lot of people interested in attending community colleges now. According to an article by Peter Whoriskey in the Washington Post:

Just as workers have turned to community colleges, states have cut their budgets, forcing the institutions to turn away legions of students and stymieing the efforts to retrain the workforce.

Unemployment is highest among the nation’s lesser-educated workers, and for them, community colleges offer a critical pathway to new jobs: Classes are open, relatively cheap and often tailored to picking up job skills.

But classes aren’t as open as they used to be. Some 35 states slashed higher education budgets last year, despite the fact that more people want to go to college. Another 31 states are planning to devote less money to higher education next year.

It’s hard to get a national idea of the true number of people who would go to community colleges if space were available but this demand for the colleges, together with limited desk space, is showing up all across the nation.

Despite all this Obama administration talk about community colleges and their glory, on the ground a lot of community colleges are struggling, not with complicated things like actually making all these students smarter and employed, but just having enough space for everyone.

In October Jill Biden said that,

Community colleges are uniquely American – places where anyone who walks through the door is one step closer to realizing the American Dream. These schools are flexible and innovative. For that reason, countries around the world are looking at community colleges as a model to increase workforce preparedness and college graduation among their own citizens.

As a model, really? As Whoriskey put it, back in America, “the cutting of community college budgets signals politicians’ lack of enthusiasm for higher education spending at a time of budget deficits.”

It’s kind of an imperfect model. [Image via]

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