Community colleges get support from UW profs


A good article in the Cap Times by Todd Finkelmeyer (he usually does good ones) details the work done by two UW professors, Sara Goldrick-Rab and Douglas Harris, to support a massive national investment in community colleges.

“Over the last two centuries, the United States created an advantage over other countries by helping our citizens attain formal education, generating an able workforce and technological advancement,” states the report, which was also co-written by Christopher Mazzeo of the Consortium on Chicago School Research and Gregory Kienzl of the Institute for Higher Education Policy. “Yet U.S. higher educational attainment, long considered a ladder to economic and social success, has stalled and now reinforces inequalities between rich and poor America.”

Although the economic crisis certainly hasn’t deterred increased spending in D.C., it has distracted the country from its already-pressing education crisis. The price of college has risen so drastically in recent years that people seem to have given up trying to explain the increasing costs. As more families are unwilling or unable to invest in a four year education for their children, attention is turning to community and technical colleges. Nevertheless, students at those institutions are similarly burdened by debt and many are forced to drop out because of unacceptably high costs. This is why community colleges should be central to any big education policy.

Barack Obama showed a willingness to engage the issue on the campaign trail with his “American Opportunity Tax Credit,” which would grant families $4000 a year for tuition. That would make many community colleges virtually free, as they should be. It would also make in-state tuition at UW-Madison significantly more affordable.

Now his plan has changed – it targets community colleges even more aggressively.

On July 14, Obama unveiled the American Graduation Initiative, a 10-year, $12 billion plan that mirrors much of the Brookings report in calling for a significant increase in investment in community colleges.

Interesting point here that could signal closer relations between UW and MATC: 

Radomski, who is also a member of Madison Area Technical College’s District Board, said “community colleges don’t have the infrastructure to prove effectiveness. So what this means, and I’m being self-interested a little bit, is that research universities have a prime opportunity to collaborate with the community colleges. This is very exciting.
Good to see that education hasn’t been forgotten. I prioritize health care above higher education because I see it as a fundamental human right. However, education is a much more exciting issue. Imagine the education investment that could have been used from the money that went into the Iraq War. Yes, it is a cliché, but I would like to remind you that people in Europe go to college for free. We don’t have to adopt their system – there are still plenty of people who can afford to cough up some bucks for college courses. However, talking to Jason Joyce (UW ’92) the other day, he commented that when he was editing the Badger Herald, it was still possible to work your way through college.
Hold a job, go to classes, graduate, and not have to work for the devil to pay off loans. We can go back to those days. Hopefully our kids will experience it. Because I’m sure as hell not going to make enough money to pay for their tuition.

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