Newspaper article Roll Call

What Can You Learn from Community Colleges? More Than You Think | Commentary

Newspaper article Roll Call

What Can You Learn from Community Colleges? More Than You Think | Commentary

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What Can You Learn From Community Colleges? More Than You Think | Commentary

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* By George Miller and Mitch Daniels

* April 10, 2015, 12:40 p.m.

The emerging national dialogue about making community colleges as free as K-12 education shows how central these institutions have become to our national vision for building a strong economic future. With nearly half of all U.S. undergraduates enrolled in community colleges, we must all agree on this fact: Our nation needs community colleges to be the best they can be. They simply cannot fail.

The announcement in March of the Aspen Prize for the best community colleges in America sends a critical message: If community colleges succeed as we know they can, they will provide an on-ramp to the middle class for millions and millions of Americans. Fifty years ago, Diablo Valley College in Contra Costa County put George on the path that eventually led to law school and the U.S. Congress.

Here's what we know from our years as leaders in American education:

Labor market needs are changing. By 2020, more than 60 percent of all jobs will require a college degree or other post-secondary credential.

Community colleges today enroll 7 million degree-seeking students, more than a third of whom are the first in their family to attend college. Unfortunately, fewer than half of all community college students graduate.

While many community college degrees and certificates help students land jobs with strong wages - in areas such as nursing, welding and information technology - others result in jobs that pay wages barely higher than those earned by high school graduates.

The changing landscape of higher education has resulted in an increasingly diverse (and often less academically prepared) student body, less funding and greater accountability for student results than ever before. …

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