One of the select few that gained national notoriety was Trident Technical College, South Carolina's second-largest institution of higher learning with about 18,000 students. Boeing hailed the two-year school when it established an assembly line for the massive new Dreamliner, bringing with it more than 1,600 jobs and the promise of another line and a large research component. A total of 4,000 jobs is possible.
"We worked to adapt the curriculum to accommodate Boeing's educational and training needs," school President Mary Thornley recalled. "The community really pulled together to attract Boeing." Similar success stories from business and industry dot the countryside.
Community colleges -- and there are 1,655 of them across the United States -- are positioned for additional support from all levels of government, and especially from local and state sources. They are especially popular in large states like California, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois and New York. About 23 percent of community college students will transfer to four-year colleges and universities, saving their already strapped parents millions of dollars for the first two years of their advanced education.
To further advance the community college movement, which is essential, the schools must retain their open-access mission, but couple with it strategies to help students complete a certificate, a degree, or transfer. Their stunning success is attributable to their open-access mission, and now they need to focus on the equally important objective of student completion.
Community colleges need to provide greater academic direction to students when they enroll. The students clearly need better direction, whether they're majoring in traditional liberal arts or workforce-related certificates and credentials.
Community colleges should continue to keep overhead low and, in doing so, keep tuition and fees reasonable for students and families. And remember that community colleges remain the least-funded among public colleges and universities.
Community colleges must continue to demonstrate to government leaders that investment in these unique institutions will pay by helping students earn degrees and obtain jobs.
Budig is past president of West Virginia University and two other universities, as well as Major League Baseball's American League. He taught at Princeton University.