Friday, November 21, 2008

Community colleges now in spotlight

Long the neglected stepchildren of American higher education, community colleges have come front-and-center in the eyes of students, policymakers and philanthropists.
For students, that's because of the economy, which is boosting interest in two-year schools as a cheaper starting point for a bachelor's degree. They're also the place for job retraining. A community colleges group estimates enrollment is up about 8 percent this fall. The new philanthropic attention was underscored last week when the giant Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would spend up to half a billion dollars over the next four years on a college completion initiative. The goal is doubling the current proportion of about 25 percent of low-income people who earn a postsecondary credential. And it was notable that officials said the initial focus would be on two-year schools. The Gates announcement represents the growing recognition that solutions to those problems will have to target community colleges, which educate a disproportionate share of the racial and ethnic groups that are falling behind. Fewer than half of community college students complete as associate's degree or successfully transfer.

The Gates announcement follows several other prominent foundations, including Lumina, Kellogg and Ford, that have recently begun focusing on community colleges. Read complete article here

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