-Tom Mathison, FAIA
Principal, Higher Education Focus Group Leader
On October 5, 2010, the White House held the first-ever Conference on Community Colleges to highlight new initiatives aimed toward higher education and community colleges. Many people, including me, had high expectations for a conference that would shine some light on a growing, yet seemingly underappreciated, part of America’s education system. After the day was done, there seemed to be mixed reviews about its content and impact.
There is no doubting, however, that community colleges play an important role in America’s education system. Almost half of America’s undergraduate students receive education at America’s 1200 community colleges. As the largest part of our higher education system, they enroll more that 8 million students and are growing. And few would deny that community colleges represent the most diverse educational setting anywhere. Community colleges must meet more needs by a greater range of students than anywhere else.
The conference highlighted several priorities of the Obama Administration:
- Making college affordable. Community college students are more likely to cite financial concerns as impediments to persistence and completion of a degree or program.
- Increasing graduation rates for degrees, certificates and other industry-related credentials.
- Supporting military veterans with programs making higher education and other services more accessible.
What is your view of the importance of community colleges in America’s education system? Are these the highest priorities for community colleges?