July 8th, 2009

America's Best Export: Community College

Could community colleges be the answer to getting education for young people living in impoverished countries?  Jill Biden seems to think so.

In her keynote address at a UNESCO forum on higher education in Paris, the longtime educator and spouse of Vice President Joe Biden, expressed her belief that “the community colleges model could help to fill in the gaps, technology, water programs, remedial education in poorer countries around the world.”

There are around 1,200 community colleges in the United States serving some 12 million students, and according to reports, they have grown faster than other universities in the last 30 years. More than that, Biden says, community colleges “lead the way in preparing graduates in the fields of green technology, health care, teaching and information technology — some of the fastest-growing fields in America and the rest of the world.”

We produced a feature-length documentary, Discounted Dreams, in 2007 which travels to California, Colorado, Illinois and New York to explore the paradoxes of these vital institutions. Community colleges are certainly vital to America’s future – they offer a staggering array of classes and job training programs. But growing enrollment is straining the system, underfunding persists, and in spite of some remarkable success stories, they fail to graduate even half of those who come.

Jill Biden on Community Colleges [NY Times, 7/8/09]

Related Program: Discounted Dreams

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