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Community College for Career Changers

Community College for Career Changers

John Rossheim | Monster Senior Contributing Writer

President Barack Obama has proposed a 10-year, multibillion-dollar initiative to beef up community college programs across the nation, with a primary objective of retraining Americans for the volatile workplace of the 21st century.

For tens of millions of underemployed, unemployed or insecure workers, this boost can’t come soon enough. But federal backing should eventually provide millions of career changers and new high school grads with relevant training at a very reasonable cost.

Of the $12 billion in proposed spending, $500 million would go to developing new online courses and $9 billion to challenge grants intended to spur innovations and enable more course schedules geared to the diverse needs of working students.

As daunting as a return to higher education can be, mid-career workers should take comfort from these statistics: Of the nation’s 11 million community college students, 58 percent are age 22 or older, according to a January 2008 report from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). And 27 percent of full-time community college students are also full-time workers. Learn how you could join their ranks and use community college to make a career change.

Challenges and Opportunities for Community Colleges

With their budgets severely strained and more students than ever knocking at their doors seeking superior educational value, community colleges are under stress in 2009.

“Our enrollment is up 30 percent over a year ago,” says Katie Headlee, assistant director of student advising at Cascadia Community College in Bothell, Washington. “We’re seeing more and more people who need to add to their professional qualifications or entirely change careers.”

Some community colleges will be forced to increase class sizes; others may be forced to turn away some students temporarily. When you’re checking out community colleges in your area, it’s important to find out how they’re coping.

But regardless of economic strains, the curricular focus of community college is unlikely to change: They’re particularly strong in fields of study relevant to careers in local industry. And in 2009, they’re emphasizing fields like allied health, public safety and alternative energy.

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