President Obama Says Community Colleges are a Gateway to Competing in the Global Economy

July 15, 2009

By NAFSA

President Obama yesterday announced a major national investment in America's community colleges, with a focus on opening the doors of opportunity in higher education for many more Americans and on ensuring that community colleges can successfully prepare individuals with the education and training necessary for the jobs of tomorrow.

NAFSA enthusiastically supports efforts to strengthen community colleges. With their close ties to local communities, community colleges are key incubators of skills and innovation for local employers, and critical drivers of local economies. Community colleges have long been recognized leaders in the United States in efforts to ensure that the education they provide includes preparing students with the international skills and knowledge that employers increasingly require and expect.

NAFSA's annual Internationalizing the Campus report has highlighted these achievements, at such schools as Bellevue Community College in Washington; Columbus State Community College in Ohio; Community College of Philadelphia; El Camino College in California; Howard Community College in Maryland; Kapi'olani Community College/University of Hawaii; Miami Dade College; and Shoreline Community College in Washington.

Community colleges attract significant numbers of international students to the United States, recognizing that their presence is part of creating a diverse and global learning environment on campus. And many community colleges have created innovative programs to make it possible for their students to study abroad during their academic careers. However, only a small fraction of their students – about 0.1% - have the opportunity to take part in those programs. The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act , with its emphasis on expanding access to study abroad across the college demographic, would give community colleges a much-needed boost in those efforts.

We applaud President Obama for recognizing the contributions and potential of this segment of the higher education community, and we pledge our support for ensuring that community colleges continue to play a leading role in preparing our students and those from around the world for work and life in the global age.

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