Skip to main content

Restoring the American Dream

Providing Community Colleges with the Resources They Need

By Richard D. Kahlenberg

In the United States, where social mobility has been considered a birthright, community colleges are essential to that promise. But America’s one thousand community colleges, which educate nine million students, often fall short of their potential. The lion’s share of the blame lies with policies that systematically shortchange community colleges financially, asking twoyear institutions to educate those students who tend to have the greatest needs, using the fewest financial resources.

What can be done? With the support of the William T. Grant Foundation, a twentyonemember Century Foundation Working Group analyzed the problem over a twoyear period, and now offer a bold set of recommendations. Among them, the group calls for the creation of a new body of research that will establish, for the first time, what it costs to provide a strong community college education. Such studies, which are commonplace at the K–12 level, could provide guidance to policymakers on the amount of money to invest in community colleges, and could provide support to community college leaders on where best to invest. Much better research could greatly improve decisionmaking, the Working Group suggests, substantially boosting the life chances of community college students, and jumpstarting social mobility in America.

This volume includes the report of the Working Group, along with three background papers:

Bruce Baker and Jesse Levin, “Estimating the Real Cost of Community College”

Anthony P. Carnevale, Artem Gulish, and Jeff Strohl, “Educational Adequacy in the TwentyFirst Century”

Richard D. Kahlenberg, Robert S. Shireman, Kimberly Quick, and Tariq Habash, “Policy Strategies for Pursuing Adequate Funding of Community Colleges”

Get daily updates from Brookings