Economist Mike Walden: The Multiple Roles of Community Colleges

Community colleges – as we call them in North Carolina – or technical colleges in other states, are an important part of our higher education system.  What is the mission of community colleges today, and has it changed?

Summary Answer

  1. original mission of most community and technical colleges – including those in NC – was to train individuals for careers needing training beyond high school
  2. But not needing a 4-year college degree
  3. so focused on the trades and technical occupations
  4. today, that mission still exists, but another has been added – improving the skills of individuals who want a 4-year degree, but who don’t have the grades or accomplishments coming out of high school to be admitted into a 4-year college
  5. indeed, 4 out of 5 students enrolling in a community or technical college today say their ultimate goal is a 4-year college degree
  6. so mission has been broadened
  7. but has also created a debate – is the broadened mission deterring many from     pursing the technical or trades programs – where many analysts say we are facing shortages?