In an increasingly competitive world economy, America’s economic strength depends upon the education and skills of its workers. In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as those requiring no college experience. And over the next decade, nearly 8 in 10 new jobs will require higher education and workforce training.

As the largest part of the nation’s higher education system, community colleges enroll more than 12 million students and are growing rapidly. They feature affordable tuition, open admission policies, flexible course schedules, and convenient locations, and they are good for anyone whether you are a high school graduate wanting to do a degree program or just do vocation training or you are a mid to senior level working, or an aged person needing remedial classes. Community colleges also work with businesses, industry, labor, and government to create tailored training programs to meet economic needs like nursing, health information technology, advanced manufacturing, and green jobs.(Source White House Summit on Community Colleges 2010)

Why Community Colleges are so important in higher education system?

  1. Community colleges are well-suited to address the lack of well-trained, skilled and certified workers across the country.
  2. Community colleges are located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Regardless of their location, businesses can find a community college partner nearby to help them with their job training needs.
  3. In many cases, community colleges are more flexible than other educational institutions in changing their class offerings, class times and even class locations to meet the needs of local employers and workforce.
  4. Community colleges generally have open admissions. The overwhelming majority of potential workers are eligible to take classes at community colleges.
  5. While many community college students enroll with the intention of eventually obtaining a degree from a four-year institution, many students in fact never intend to go beyond an associate’s degree. Some students only seek to get a certification or credential for professional purposes. Some students only seek to take a class or two to enhance their skills, knowledge or training.

There are 1,167 regionally accredited, primarily associate degree granting community colleges across the country. Most of the 1,167 schools are public (993), though some are independent (143) and some are tribal colleges (31). American Association of Community Colleges database 2011)Community colleges vary greatly in size. Some schools are as small as 1,000 students. Other schools serve more than 100,000 students. More than 174,000 students attend the eight campuses of Miami Dade College, which is not only the largest community college in the United States, but also the largest institution of higher education in the nation.

Nearly 12 million students are enrolled in America’s community colleges. These students make up 44 percent of all undergraduates. (National Center for Education Statistics – 2010) Two-thirds of community college students attend part-time. Minorities comprise forty-five percent of students. The average age of community college students is 28, and more than half are already employed. Simply put, they are a core part of our current and future workforce.