Community college leaders in Virginia and other states say their schools' roles in giving students an affordable education and job training are undervalued, so they're banding together to fight for federal policy changes.
Virginia Community College System Chancellor Glenn DuBois and his counterparts in Louisiana, North Carolina and Indiana have formed Rebuilding the Middle Class. The coalition, which held its first meeting last week in the group's home base of Indianapolis, is raising money in hopes of building its profile among the public and with lawmakers.
"We were seen as high schools with ashtrays — we weren't real," DuBois said. "The perception was that this was the place to go if you couldn't get into college."
That has changed as more employers now require a post-secondary education while the costs for attending four-year schools have skyrocketed. The two-year schools are typically far less-expensive to attend and serve as an interim step for many students between high school and four-year colleges and universities.