Policymakers Need New Perspective, Approach to Community Colleges, Report Says

The changes in the economy over recent years have placed a new focus on community colleges and the role they can play in the nation’s recovery. However, a recent Center for American Progress report notes that significant policy changes must be enacted for community colleges to best serve students and prepare them to succeed in the workforce.

Re-imagining Community Colleges in the 21st Century: A Student-Centered Approach to Higher Education, a report released in December, offers a series of student-focused policy recommendations dedicated to re-imagining community colleges. The recommendations aim to address the larger issue of recognizing that community colleges require political support in achieving their multiple missions and functions: developmental education, vocational-occupational education and university transfer.

The report calls on political leaders and policymakers to “move past normative understandings of community colleges and their students and expect no less of these institutions and no less for their students than the best that is offered at any level of postsecondary education.”

Some recommendations include:
• New approaches to training and credentialing – States and federal legislation should support innovative, credit-based training programs that respond to student and industry needs.

• Funding for colleges and financial support for students – Policymakers should create a financial support program modeled after the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill that would include stipends for full-time or part-time community college students and allowance for books and supplies.

• Policies to promote developmental education – States must institute policies that support innovative uses of data that require collaboration between elementary, secondary and postsecondary systems.

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