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The Truth About Community Colleges

The Truth About Community Colleges

As the 2003-2004 academic year gets under way, Black Issues shines a spotlight on the role of the nation’s community colleges. Overlooked and frequently misunderstood, community colleges bear an enormous burden in opening the doors of higher education to millions of Americans. While community colleges serve as the bedrock institution for high-school graduates who opt for vocational opportunities, they are increasingly being called upon to educate a growing share of people who will eventually earn bachelor’s degrees and beyond.

Black Issues has in the past been accused of not covering community colleges as extensively as we do four-year institutions. Have we been slow to recognize the value of the community college? Actually, it is quite the contrary. The reality is that we do recognize the value of two-year institutions, so much so that our parent company almost 15 years ago began publishing Community College Week, a biweekly publication, which exclusively covers issues unique to two-year institutions. But issues and life on community-college campuses are of great importance to Black Issues. Community colleges attract a diverse student population, not just racially and ethnically diverse, but academically as well.

Community-college leaders admit to battling a public perception problem. The schools are often stereotyped as institutions that just serve students who do not have what it takes to attend a four-year institution. When in fact, who they serve and for what reasons is much broader. In short, these days it would be difficult to find a “typical” community-college student.

We hope the following mix of stories will re-educate you about community colleges and eliminate any stereotypes you might have about these institutions. Kendra Hamilton’s “Community Colleges: An Overlooked Oasis?” explores the dynamics underlying the role of the community college as the port of entry for millions of minorities and disadvantaged individuals into higher education. Ronald Roach examines the evolving relationship between community colleges and historically Black institutions in “A ‘Passport’ to a Four-Year Degree.” Ben Hammer documents the example of an urban community college taking a role in expanding educational opportunities in South Africa in “Serving Urban Populations a Continent Away.” And, lastly, Pamela Burdman writes about the important role community colleges have acquired as the launching pad for thousands of Californians who aspire to earn four-year degrees, but with the increased competition to attend, in particular, the top-tier UC schools, Berkeley and UCLA, opt to go the community-college route in hopes of transferring.

We hope you find these articles to be informative and eye-opening. And although what school you attend can certainly have its long-term privileges, what we should focus on is not whether someone attends a two- or four-year institution, but rather making sure that anyone who desires a higher education gets that opportunity.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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