Where Credit is Due

In college I heard a joke that asked, "How many community college students does it take to change a tire?" and answered, "Only one, but they'd get three hours credit for it." While I was trying to decide whether even to give a fake smile at this lame joke, I was reminded that community colleges are often seen as an easy route through college courses.

Those who dismiss community colleges are missing the vital role these two-year schools play in their communities. Increasingly, these colleges have incorporated into their mission the objective of breaking the cycle of poverty. "Community should be defined not only as a region to be served, but also as a climate to be created," says the American Association of Community Colleges, the advocacy organization for the 1,100 U.S. community colleges. If this sounds like the community organizer's approach to college education - it is. Community colleges are expanding their open door admissions practices to include at-risk students and are creating sustainable development projects that reach beyond job training programs.

Maysville Community College, an example of educational outreach, serves a northern Kentucky community of 9,400. MCC has an acclaimed 3-year old program, in partnership with local HUD authorities, that offers three-week-long intensive computer classes at two public housing complexes. The program has taken college level courses and tailored them to a population of previously unreachable students. College president Hans J. Kuss explains that the school "is not bound by the old paradigm that students must enroll and study at the college campus. With Internet and related computer technology, the college can bring a campus to any student who seeks an education."

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2000
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