Despite the fact that community colleges exist at least in part to train people for jobs, many such institutions are apparently now having trouble keeping up with demand, and have had to cut back on jobs training programs.

High unemployment cause many people to enroll in community colleges. State budget shortages (caused at least in part by that unemployment) mean community colleges don’t have additional funds to deal with more students. According to a report released by the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center:

High joblessness strains community college strain capacity in 35 states, as business leaders look to community colleges to address training needs.

Available training funds from the federal Work-force Investment Act and other sources have been exhausted in 21 states. From July to October of 2011, unemployment fell in 27 states, yet available workforce training funds were exhausted in more than half (15).

Colleges are pressured to offer noncredit “quick training,” not higher cost programs in high demand technology-based majors, especially in large states.

This is the problem with community colleges. No one cares about them when times are good; everyone needs them when times are bad. And when funding is tight, that’s just when the states need them the most for job training.

In June Barack Obama, promoting a program to encourage businesses to partner with local community colleges, said “Lighting a spark, that’s what community colleges can do. We’ve got to light more sparks all across America.”

Well yes, “lighting a spark” is what community colleges could do. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s going on today.

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