Community colleges are an integral part of the communities in which they reside. For many communities, especially in rural areas, the college serves as a cultural center, as well as the primary postsecondary education and training resource. In all communities, community colleges serve as an economic catalyst, providing employers with an educated and trained workforce.
The workforce of today and into the future needs to be more educated than the workforces of previous generations. Educating a competitive workforce helps to stimulate both the local and state economies. It also helps individuals improve their lives and the lives of their family members. Employers are seeking specific higher-order skills and prefer graduates who have gone through systematic programs of study. Merely graduating from high school is no longer sufficient to guarantee a steady job and a middle class income. As educational attainment of the population continues to increase, more and more people will receive education or training after leaving high school.
The demand for a more skilled workforce also provides higher pay. Students who receive degrees or certificates beyond a high school diploma receive significantly more in wages than people with only a high school education. Jobs requiring an associate degree are some of the fastest growing occupations in the nation and crucial to our society; nurses, police officers, and other first responders are all educated primarily by community colleges.
Community colleges have always strived to serve all the members in the community who can benefit from their services. This is increasingly important as the composition of the population to be served becomes increasingly diverse and complex. Nationally, the U.S. Bureau of the Census is projecting that by the year 2050, no racial or ethnic group will be a majority.
In the shorter term, community colleges are seeing more traditional age students coming through their doors because of the increased high school graduations caused by title wave II - the children of baby boomers. This increase in traditional aged students is putting more pressure on colleges to expand space or turn away students.