Thursday, July 16, 2009

Don't Forget

"We believe it's time to reform our community colleges so that they provide Americans of all ages a chance to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for the jobs of the future. Our community colleges can serve as 21st-century job training centers, working with local businesses to help workers learn the skills they need to fill the jobs of the future. We can reallocate funding to help them modernize their facilities, increase the quality of online courses and ultimately meet the goal of graduating 5 million more Americans from community colleges by
2020."

Barack Obama, "Rebuilding Something Better," The Washington Post, July 12, 2009.

The President's recognition and advocacy for community colleges and the attainment of some college is path-breaking. Gaining at at least a year of college is where we begin to see the big payoffs for individuals.

I would have hoped, however, that the President would have also recognized the need for 21st century adult education to help the 88 million adults with literacy challenges to get ready for college. It's critically important to prevent college drop out, but it is also important to get people ready to enter college and to transition people from developmental education (remedial work) to college-level courses -- even though they graduated college and think they are in college.

I know, one step at a time. But as long as we are talking long term, why not grapple with demographic changes and potential skill shortages. Given that most people who will be in the labor force in 2020 are in the labor force now, we need to invest in building their basic skills. This will be no easy task -- but we need to hold up together the challenges of some college and adult education.

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