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Community Colleges Have Historically Powered the Economy and Supported Industry Advancements. They Must Innovate to Continue This Legacy.
May 5, 2021

Community college and the economy are historically tied. Throughout history, when mass amounts of workers needed to be upskilled or reskilled to meet the needs of advancing and expanding industries, community colleges have risen to the challenge. The expansion of industrialization in the 19th century gave birth to community college as a concept designed to train students to fill burgeoning occupations in the local economy.

The end of the Age of Industrialization sparked the Age of University. Between 1870 and 1910, there was a surge of interest in higher education [1]. The prosperity that resulted from industrialization enabled an increase in spending on community college establishment and attendance. Historically, community colleges provided a pathway to social and economic mobility, stimulating economic growth [2]. After the inception of community college, growth in this sector is repeatedly witnessed in times of significant disruption, change, and advancement.

During and after World War I, there was a surge in attendance at community colleges, where specialized training was provided to support the war effort and educate the returning workforce. The next boom in community college enrollment was seen during the Great Depression. From 1929 to 1939, enrollment skyrocketed, nearly tripling the number of students enrolled from 56,000 to 150,000. The primary reason for this surge was that young adults were unable to find work as a record number simultaneously graduated from high school. These students saw education as the best way to gain skills that would aid their efforts to find jobs and advance upward economically [3].

Again, proceeding wartime where upskilling was needed to enter the workforce, community college enrollment saw growth. The end of WWII spurred the peak growth period for community colleges. In fact, in this period, one community college was being established per week! This growth coincided with the introduction of the G.I. Bill, which made education attainable for service members. Returning servicemen used these benefits to attend community college to gain new and relevant skills, enabling gainful entrance into the workforce post-graduation [4].

Following the same pattern, during the Great Recession of 2008-2010, when 8.7 million Americans lost their jobs, adults turned to community college in search of workforce programs. Adults facing employment disruption sought upskilling and retraining to secure new positions after many jobs were eliminated [5].

Historically, community college enrollment increases during times of national financial hardship, as seen by the timeline of enrollment increases. The COVID-19 pandemic response is anomalous to this trend. Enrollment in community college is currently down 9.5% from last year, despite a widening skills gap, rapidly advancing technological changes affecting nearly every industry, and millions of adults out of work, all previous indicators for sector growth [6]. At the same time, the eLearning market is booming. It is expected to grow by $147.79 billion between 2021 and 2025, with a CAGR of over 16% [7]. The likely issue that altered the pattern is that students seek developed online courses at this time, and many community colleges do not have the infrastructure in place to sufficiently support this critical need.

Community colleges by design are ideal to meet workforce training needs in times of great change when advancement is demanded. The goal of community college is to provide accessible and relevant education and training to enable upward mobility. Often, with close attention paid to the needs of the surrounding community, industry, and economy. Community colleges are ideally flexible and responsive to identified local bottlenecks in education and skill availability.

The economic impact of community college is significant. Associate degree recipients earn 18.3% higher yearly salaries than workers with only a high school diploma, receiving an average annual salary of $42,600 [8]. The higher earnings and subsequent fewer social services required for community college graduates save $46.4 billion a year in government spending. The investment is also worthwhile for both students and the economy because, for every dollar spent on community college education, students earn back $4.80, and taxpayers save $6.80 [9]. Education can be revolutionary for the lives of associate degree earners. This is compounded by the fact that without community college, many of the 11.6 million credit and non-credit seeking community college students across the 1,202 community colleges in the U.S. would not have access to higher education and upskilling throughout their lives [10].

In 2021, acceptance rates averaged 86% and 75% at public and private community colleges, respectively [11] and annual in-state tuition averages for public community college costs $4,027. This is highly attainable compared to public four-year university averages. With public school acceptance rates at 62.04% and a private average at 49.87%, as well as double the cost for annual tuition at public four-year universities averaging $8,757&[12], community college is an accessible and monetarily feasible option for millions of students nationally seeking higher education. Community colleges are often the first introduction to higher education for many students graduating high school. They also act as a valuable resource for adults seeking continuing education. The prevalence of adult learners seeking upskilling at community college is evident since the average age of a community college student is 29 years old [13]. Community colleges train and retrain our workforces in times of need. This is evident throughout history and will continue into the future if schools invest in innovative online solutions to meet their community's needs to counter the anomalous reduction in this time of disruption.

If community colleges innovate, there is no doubt that they will see huge surges of enrollment in the near future. A perfect storm is brewing for community colleges to step up to the plate and upskill massive numbers of people. Currently, there is a huge skills gap that is only being widened future by digitalization. Rapid implementation of new advanced technology revolutionized the American workforce and changed the relevant skills needed for even the most basic jobs. Additionally, by 2030 the workforce will be faced with the Grey Tsunami, where the entirety of the baby boomer generation will have a reached retirement age and exit the workforce. This means that, within the next nine years, there will be a vacuum in the American workforce [14]. To fill these gaps in workers who want to advance must be upskilled or reskilled to meet the need.

Now is the time for community colleges to assess the needs of their communities, work together will local industry, and tailor innovative upskilling courses designed to support adults in the workforce who need training to secure a job or move up in the workplace. If community colleges desire to secure a market share of the booming eLearning industry, they must work fast to implement innovative offerings for professionals who have an acute need for accessible and monetarily feasible options. 

How Can Your College Easily and Quickly Launch an Online Learning Platform to Stay Relevant?

Community colleges have aided economic growth since the beginning. Sought out to educate the nation's workforce, community college is a valuable pillar in the education system. Typically, growth is seen in the sector during times of disruption, but the opposite is happening. As more people invest in eLearning options to upskill, community colleges that are not digitally prepared will see a steep reduction in enrollment. There is an opportunity to capitalize on the current and upcoming workforce and industry changes and advancements. The way to do this is by partnering with an online learning ecosystem provider. By doing this, your college can easily and quickly establish a scalable digital backbone that can meet the exact needs of your community and local industry.

An online learning platform should include these features:

  • Custom branded to drive brand loyalty
  • Custom curated upskilling courses that are relevant to your students
  • Integrated AI technology to pull accurate, up-to-the-minute data, provide automation for grading, and personalize the learning experience to make it more engaging
  • Integrated advanced data analytics to pair with AI to provide personalized learning insights to employees and provide insights and reports to the employer
  • Intuitive and easy to use platform that requires no training
  • Engaging features that build community and solidify learning
  • Proven high retention rates on the platform

If your community college acts quickly to implement innovative solutions, it can recover from the reduction in enrollment and position itself very well for the future of workforce education.

Amesite Offers a Single, Easy to Use, Scalable Solution

Launch an online learning platform that increased enrollment by bringing community college into the future and solidifying its legacy of economic and industrial support evident throughout history.

Amesite is the premier online learning ecosystem provider on the market today and is well-positioned to provide your community college with the platform and content needed to upskill America's workforces and prepare for the future of work.

Amesite delivers a high-tech AI-enabled online learning platform, creates scalable, custom-branded learning environments, and curates content using experts in the industry that follow best practices, meeting your college's unique needs. A host of self-paced, highly engaging, and intuitive courses can be ready for your university in as little as 30 days.

Amesite can provide your college with numerous revenue streams using turnkey, intuitive micro-credentials, summer camps, and alumni/professional upskilling programs, as well as traditional online course curriculums. All of which require no training to use and allow your college to take full advantage of the immediate needs that these programs satisfy. Amesite is a budget-conscious choice because the is no investment in IT staff or training required to use the platform.

Amesite's system uses established social media formats to help learners access the content in a familiar setting. These mechanisms streamline the learning process. Amesite's platform also gives users the experience of learning with a community, a valuable addition to the online education experience. Engaging features like video chat and live streaming connect instructors and other students virtually to enhance and solidify learning. Amesite has an outstanding and industry-leading 98% retention rate. 

Bring your community college into the future and continue to power the economy. Request a Demo!

Check out some of our customer success stories: The Henry Ford,Wayne State University.

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Resources: 

[1] State University. Higher Education in the United States - HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT, SYSTEM. https://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2044/Higher-Education-in-United-States.html Accessed April 29, 2021.

[2] Edsurge. Sept. 9, 2020. Community Colleges Have Long Powered the Economy. To Sustain That Role, They Must Innovate. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-09-09-community-colleges-have-long-powered-the-economy-to-sustain-that-role-they-must-innovate Accessed April 29, 2021.

[3] Virginia Community College System. 2003. Community Colleges in America: A Historical Perspective. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ876835.pdf Accessed April 29, 2021.

[4] Virginia Community College System. 2003. Community Colleges in America: A Historical Perspective. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ876835.pdf Accessed April 29, 2021.

[5] Columbia University Community College Research Center. March 2019. The Evolving Mission of Workforce Development in the Community College. https://www.luminafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/the-evolving-mission-of-workforce-development.pdf Accessed April 29, 2021.

[6] Global News Wire. April 4, 2021. The Global E-learning Market is expected to grow by $ 147.79 bn during 2021-2025 progressing at a CAGR of over 16% during the forecast period. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/04/06/2205047/0/en/The-Global-E-learning-Market-is-expected-to-grow-by-147-79-bn-during-2021-2025-progressing-at-a-CAGR-of-over-16-during-the-forecast. Accessed April 29, 2021.

[7] Forbes. March 11, 2021. College Enrollment Declines Have Continued This Spring. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2021/03/11/college-enrollment-declines-have-continued-this-spring/?sh=35d8dde85aca Accessed April 29, 2021.

[8] What to Become. Nov. 25, 2020. 27 Important Community College Statistics You Should Know. https://whattobecome.com/blog/community-college-statistics/ Accessed April 29, 2021.

[9] American Association of Community Colleges. May 2014. Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges. https://www.aacu.org/aacu-news/newsletter/where-value-meets-values-economic-impact-community-colleges Accessed April 29, 2021.

[10] Community College Review. Jan. 20, 2021. Can Community Colleges Cure the Economy? https://www.communitycollegereview.com/acceptance-rate-stats/national-data Accessed April 29, 2021.

[11] Community College Review. Jan. 20, 2021. Can Community Colleges Cure the Economy? https://www.communitycollegereview.com/acceptance-rate-stats/national-data Accessed April 29, 2021.

[12] College Tuition Compare. 2021. 2021 Acceptance Rate Comparison between Private Colleges. https://www.collegetuitioncompare.com/compare/tables/?type=Private&factor=acceptance-rate#:~:text=For%20academic%20year%202020%2D2021,schools%20of%20Private%20Colleges%20finally. Accessed April 29, 2021.

[13] Community College Review. Jan. 20, 2021. Can Community Colleges Cure the Economy? https://www.communitycollegereview.com/acceptance-rate-stats/national-data Accessed April 29, 2021.

[14] Edsurge. Sept. 9, 2020. Community Colleges Have Long Powered the Economy. To Sustain That Role, They Must Innovate. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-09-09-community-colleges-have-long-powered-the-economy-to-sustain-that-role-they-must-innovate Accessed April 29, 2021.