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A Jobs Bill That Can Pass: Community College Reform

Prospects look grim for the nation's 15 million unemployed, according to a recent jobs report from the Labor Department. Yet lawmakers in Washington, gripped by deficit fears, haven't found the votes for even a modest stimulus package. In the current issue of the Washington Monthly, Jamie Merisotis and Stan Jones offer a plan to assist the unemployed without breaking the federal bank: help them earn one and two-year college credentials, fast. Most of the new jobs being created (slowly but surely) in this recovery require skills most unemployed Americans don't have. Yet the schools where they might get training are not up to the task. Community colleges are inexpensive but not designed to deliver credentials quickly. For-profit colleges provide quick degrees but cost a bundle and often offer subpar training. What the unemployed really need are colleges that combine the low-cost and public mission of community colleges with the job-focused curriculum of the best for-profits. Fortunately, there is a model public college system already up and running that does precisely that, with stunningly successful results. That model could be spread nationwide in a matter of months, not years, with an investment of federal money that is already in the budget.
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