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Reforming the American Community College: Promising Changes and Their Challenges

By: Kevin Dougherty, Hana Lahr & Vanessa Smith Morest

Enrolling more than 6 million students each fall, community colleges carry out a crucial function in higher education by providing access to college, including baccalaureate opportunities, occupational education, remedial education, and other educational services. At the same time, community colleges face great challenges that have elicited calls for major reforms. This paper begins by discussing the social roles and organization of community colleges in the United States, their main social contributions, and the challenges they face. It then describes and evaluates the sweeping policy proposals that have been made to address these challenges.