COVID-19 has changed the work and employment landscape in the US and elsewhere, but our network of community colleges may provide the resource we need to re-train displaced workers and to enable degree-seeking students a chance to take valuable steps toward their goal.

Last week, reader Rich Conti steered the Turning Points conversation toward David Deming’s September 20 piece in The New York Times, in which he makes just this case. Professor Deming directs the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.  

Years of developing working relationships with industry and business have perfectly positioned CCs “to train workers for careers that meet local needs and pay middle-class wages.”

But it’s an election year. Nobody agrees about anything, you say.

Government expenditure provides many of the fault lines between people who hold differing political philosophies, but supporting community colleges should appeal to elected leaders and legislators who rarely agree with one another. Now more than ever, supporting community colleges, their faculty and staff, and their students amounts to smart and practical use of tax money, which helps Americans who already are at risk. One thing we should have learned from the COVID experience is that what helps or hurts the economy helps or hurts individuals. For most people, solid employment enables personal and family health and wellness. This year of previously unimaginable challenges and dangers can be a positive turning point for us as a nation, and the same is true around the world.

I encourage readers to examine the data that Deming provides in his informative article. His conclusion should focus us on a valuable tool in our toolkit, one that has developed into what I believe is post-secondary education’s most underrecognized and underappreciated critical element–our nation-wide network of community colleges.

This has been the year when Americans have had to learn how to vacation, learn, and work locally. Very locally. It’s certainly been true about eating and dining out. Let it also be the year that we learn to lean on, support, and cheer on locally-sourced higher education too.

Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the TURNING POINTS blog on City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction.