By Dr. Edward C. Ortell
Citrus College Governing Board Member
Although just a small part of President Biden’s budget proposal for 2022, the $12 billion that has been proposed for community college infrastructure is impressive.
Considered by many economists, business leaders and other experts to be the engine that drives the economy, community colleges are the main source of job training programs in the United States. Given the rapidly changing technology of the 21st century workplace, state-of-the-art skills require state-of-the-art training and the facilities and the technological infrastructure to support it. As the nation struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, this investment in the nation’s community colleges is well timed.
More than investment in the physical elements of reskilling and upskilling, the proposed national funding is also an investment in American lives and futures. Think good-paying jobs in health occupations, automotive technology, public works, heating and air conditioning, office technology, fire science, computer science and a great many more. Much of what we have learned about distance learning, telecommuting and the workplace of the future has been pioneered and perfected by the nation’s community colleges.
Community colleges are low cost and open access. They offer flexible classes, career counseling, tutoring, financial aid and a host of other services that help students succeed. Studies show that students who earn a degree or certificate from a California community college nearly double their earnings within three years. And those who transfer to state colleges and universities obtain GPAs equal to or better than students entering these institutions as freshmen.
These and other factors make community colleges a tremendous investment for taxpayers.
Citrus College, founded in 1915, was the first community college in Los Angeles County and the fifth in California. I have been honored to serve as a governing board member for the college many years, in addition to being a faculty member at Pasadena City College. This lifelong commitment to community college education has allowed me to witness the transformation of thousands of lives made possible by community colleges, and it inspires my continued commitment each day.
April is Community College Month, recognizing and celebrating what these quintessentially American institutions have contributed to the nation, local communities and the quality of life for their students. While the nation will honor their importance for a month, community college alumni will experience their impact for a lifetime.
Dr. Edward C. Ortell is professor emeritus at Pasadena City College and a community college textbook author. He has served as the executive director of the Pasadena Education Association and as a member of the California Community College Trustees (CCCT) state board of directors.