National unemployment rate creates new role and different challenges for community colleges

 
The Miami Herald
 
On this Labor Day weekend, the unemployment rate is anchored near 10 percent, and experts of all stripes are trying to figure out how to create more jobs. There's consensus that community colleges help retrain workers for 21st century tasks and provide students the skills that employers increasingly seek, but funding for these vital institutions remains inadequate.

Higher education policy in the nation's capital focuses most on boosting four-year college graduation rates. However, not all jobs require a college degree, and community colleges increasingly have to choose between preparing students for the modern work force or teaching standard classroom courses toward four-year college education.
Evidence of these conflicting priorities abounds at Anne Arundel Community College, near Maryland's capital, Annapolis. Enrollment there, already more than 55,000, is growing at an annual clip of 5 percent or more, as more high school grads attend for two years in pursuit of an eventual four-year college degree.

Joining them are students eagerly seeking practical job-training skills.
Lynetta Flack, 58, takes a professional baking class. After retiring from a long career in the Army, she obtained a culinary degree and became a chef, but now she's back for certification as a baker to make herself more marketable.

"You can never learn too much," she said.
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