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All posts by David Neumark

Community Colleges and Employment: Research Perspectives on President Obama's Proposal

David Neumark, University of California, Irvine
March 27, 2012

community collegeIn the second installment of our Election 2012 series, economist David Neumark discusses President Obama's proposal to increase funding for community colleges. Read more of his research on education and labor policy in his RSF book Improving School-to-Work Transitions.

One component of President Obama’s efforts to increase educational levels of the workforce is increased support for community colleges. Research points to the potential value of community colleges in helping young people make successful school-to-work transitions, in part by highlighting the links between what community colleges offer and the needs of the labor market, and how community colleges are able to respond to these needs. Community colleges can perform an important function in adult education, which can help meet the challenges of an aging population by enabling older workers to retool and remain productive at work.

A volume I edited based on a conference supported by the Russell Sage Foundation (Neumark, 2007) explored a number of policies and programs to improve the school-to-work transition, at both the high school and college level. The high school-level policies include activities supported under the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 and Career Academies. Career and Technical Education programs span high schools and community colleges. And the post-high school manifestation of school-to-work is community colleges. There is longitudinal evidence that high school programs boosted subsequent employment or the accumulation of skills. And the most compelling evidence of positive impacts comes from an experimental evaluation of the Career Academy model (Kemple, 2008).


What about community colleges? In support of the President’s efforts, the White House argues that “Community Colleges are particularly important for students who are older, working, or need remedial classes. Community colleges work with businesses, industry and government to create tailored training programs to meet economic needs like nursing, health information technology, advanced manufacturing, and green jobs."

The research record is supportive of this claim on both counts.