Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where are the entrepreneurs for community colleges?

It is basic economics that when demand outpaces supply, prices rise.  The rise in prices signals to entrepreneurs that profits are available, and so they enter the market.  So this report detailing the shortage of space at community colleges, on the heels of stories about the collapse of state systems of higher education, the precipitous decline in enrollment growth at for-profits, and the rise everywhere in tuition rates, ought to signal to entrepreneurs that the time is ripe to provide a top-quality education to prospective community college students.

I've argued before that private liberal arts colleges could move successfully into this space.  They already have accreditation, and excellence in the sorts of general education courses that community college students need.   K-12 systems could move into that space as well, since they, more than anyone else, know what 18-year olds who have struggled in high school need in order to move ahead.  And tech entrepreneurs could build online community colleges, drawing on the best content out there and bundling it with the sort of support that community college students need to succeed.

It is a shame that while the prestigious colleges and universities roll out campuses around the globe chasing international dollars, or combine to offer their courses ( but not their degrees) online for free, there is little attention to reaching students in the US who could benefit from the sort of education that community colleges offer--important, basic courses built for students who want to learn but who are not well-served by 4-year institutions.

That challenge is one that ought to set entrepreneurs and educators with a passion for the opportunity that education provides, hard to work.  It is not every day when one can do well by doing good.  But this is that time.

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