What’s the community colleges’ niche?

Community colleges should “focus on their historic strength, general education,” and let for-profit colleges handle “high-cost vocational programs,” suggests Community College Dean. Vocational training is “their niche, they’re (sometimes) good at it, and they can charge enough to sustain themselves while doing it.”

Specialization makes sense, the dean argues.

One camp says that the way to compete with the for-profits is to do it all.  Another says that we should become more like them, and focus more intensely on workforce training.  I’m thinking those are both basically doomed.  The way to thrive in the new normal is not to try to be great at everything; the world is just too big.  Instead, it’s to find something you do really well, and own that.  Let the for-profits handle HVAC repair and dental hygiene; let the community colleges do the first two years of four year degrees.

These days, community colleges are struggling with general education, which is hard to do when so many students are unprepared for college work. By contrast, they’re getting lots of attention and praise for workforce training. It’s easier to get students to a vocational certificate than to an associate degree.


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON May 8, 2012

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