Community Colleges and Public Housing in the U.S.

Today’s article from is a piece by Jill Biden on the important role that community colleges play in the US education system.  Ms. Biden contends that community colleges are one of America’s “best-kept secrets” and that they provide key services for new students, career switchers and English Language Learners.

Ms. Biden’s article also ties in to the current administration’s ambitious goals for national graduation rates and educational standards.  If we, as a country, hope to achieve such high aims, we must not forget one critical population: the 3,000,000 people living in federal and locally-sponsored public housing.

Why, exactly, is this population so important? According to a report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 52% of tenants in public housing have not graduated high school, including 16.1% who have less than a 9th grade education.  These individuals who are struggling to work their way out of poverty are the perfect candidates for a community college education.  However, with such a large proportion of these tenants lacking a high school diploma, a comprehensive learning skills curriculum is critical to ensure that these students do not slip through the cracks. 

Over the years, we here at LifeBound have taught an array of courses through the local housing authority, from English as a Second Language to job skills to resume building.  We have discovered firsthand the immense need for training in such areas as study skills, problem solving and basic writing techniques are essential for these students.  Currently our nation’s public schools are evolving beyond teaching a standard test-focused curriculum towards teaching 21st century skills.  The education provided through affordable housing in the United States should strive towards these same innovative standards to better prepare individuals for community college, a new career and sustained success in their lives.


Consider Community College

Jill Biden, 08.05.09, 06:00 PM EDT

It’s no longer America’s best-kept secret.


Every year around this time, I am struck by the growing number of college rankings available to prospective college students. While these reports can be helpful, many of them fail to include an option that nearly half of all U.S. undergraduate students choose to pursue–and one I know to be the single best path to opportunity for millions of Americans: community college.

I have been an educator for 28 years, and I have taught in the community college system for more than 16 of them. I don’t have to look any further than my classroom to see the power of community colleges to change lives. For years I have welcomed students to my classroom from many different educational, economic and cultural backgrounds, and seen how the community college system puts them on the same path of opportunity.

I have seen how community colleges fill important gaps: granting two-year degrees, teaching English to immigrants, providing vocational skills training and certification and teaching basic academic skills to those who may not yet be ready to pursue a four-year degree.

It’s also hard to ignore the financial advantages. In today’s challenging economy, community colleges are an increasingly affordable way for students from middle-class families to complete the first two years of a baccalaureate degree before moving on to a four-year university.

From a policy perspective, community colleges make sense; from an economic perspective, they make sense. But I am a teacher, and my experience with community colleges is personal. People sometimes ask me why I choose to teach at one and why I have continued to teach since moving to Washington, D.C. I’m always surprised by the question because there was never a doubt in my mind that I would stay in the classroom. The reason is simple: The students are inspiring.

Read more…

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