When the coalmines started pulling out of little communities small community colleges filled the void. They moved into the economic swath cut through the community by the coalmines trying to gently stitch lives back together with education. The hope was to retrain workers giving them new skills to have new lives. Many of these new students were the first in their generation to attend school beyond the eighth grade.
The country is now facing this kind of mass exodus of big business. The government is using the same approach by lending money to retrain displaced workers. There are grants, low interest loans, and scholarships for workers who have been displaced by these changing economic trends.
Smaller community colleges seem to be thriving with their promise of a two year turn around in high demand fields like medical assisting, paralegal studies, criminal justice and more. Many consider themselves the best value in the market, but are they really? It depends on the school. Some community colleges are using the same instructors as the major universities in town by attracting them to a moonlighting schedule that also fits that of other working adults. However, some community colleges are using less skilled, lesser degreed teachers in order to cut cost. So, it is up to the accrediting bodies to help students get the best value for their money by standardizing rigorous requirements for educational facilities.
In July the president announced a 12 billion dollar proposal to boost education offered by community colleges as a part of his economic recovery plan. He is hoping to better facilities, online options, retention efforts and flexibility for adult learners. 9 billion dollars of the money would be focused on challenge grants to encourage community colleges to think outside of the educational box in order to create better options for students.
The trick in education has always been for educators to keep up with work trends. This can be difficult when many teachers are not working in the field they are teaching in, so knowing trends can be lost on them. However, community colleges have an edge over traditional colleges, because their hours geared to working adults also allow for hiring working teachers. Colleges with a large online component are even better at attracting teachers working in the field, because they offer greater flexibility in working and teaching.
Most schools have realized the need for an online component in designing new curriculums that are cutting edge, but they do not lend themselves to every learner or every degree program. Imagine having a nurse who had only taken classes online and never really had any patient contact? However, for information technology degrees online programs give more of an opportunity for experiential learning.
Nothing is ever going to be a perfect fit for every learner, every degree program, ever student, or every community. We simply do the best we can with what we have to offer at the time in order to educate the greatest number of people in a community. Teachers truly change lives one mind at a time and community colleges change communities one graduating class at a time.