Carnevale, Smith, and Strohl (2010) estimates that 46.8 million new jobs will need to be filled by 2018, of which 13.8 million will be new jobs and 33 million will be jobs open due to retirement. The types of industries expected to grow will shift in occupational expectations toward those needing abilities associated with greater levels of educational attainment, so these jobs will require college-educated workers. Factors contributing to the need for college-educated workers include creative destruction leading to a churn of skills needed by the workforce, a continuing increase in the wage premium associated with differences in educational attainment, the increasingly tough road to economic stability for low-income students, and the training provided in internal labor markets for workers that are more educated. Together these trends suggest that access to not only a job, but also to the training to keep that job, is augmented by higher levels of educational attainment.
Simply put, America’s community colleges are the brokers of opportunity for a stronger middle class and more prosperous nation. The value of community colleges has repeatedly been detailed in broad brushstrokes. Belfield and Bailey (2012) reviewed twenty studies on the earnings effects of a community college, concluding, “[T]his review affirms that there are strong positive earnings gains from community college attendance and completion, as well as progression to a 4-year college” (p. 60). In addition, the latest national estimate of the return on investment to state and local governments from investing in community colleges in 2007 was 16.1%.