Teachers College, Columbia University

American Community Colleges in the Downturn

By Michelle Van Noy & Matthew Zeidenberg

The recent global economic downturn is causing U.S. workers and employers to look to the educational system for skills that will allow them to thrive when the economy recovers. Increased attention is being given to community colleges that enroll almost 12 million credit and noncredit students.

This article reviews how the current economic crisis highlights an increased need for community colleges to perform careful ongoing market analysis to determine local demand for labor, particularly skilled labor. The authors lay out the extent to which colleges need to align their efforts with economic development efforts—operating with a continual "ear to the ground" to detect changes in labor market demand.

In conclusion, the authors point out that community colleges need to be aware of their students' longer term goals to make sure they select appropriate careers, and to encourage them to pursue pathways with both short- and long-term opportunities. 

This article was published in Digital Learning (India), vol. June 2009.