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Diverse: It’s Time to Celebrate High-Quality Community Colleges

Dr. Ángel Cabrera, president of George Mason University, and Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T Tennessee, reflect on the enormous value that high-quality community colleges, like the 2019 Aspen Prize winners, provide to students. 

For over a third of American undergraduate students, pursuit of a college education begins at community college.

These students are more likely than other undergraduates to come from lower-income families, to be people of color, and to work or raise children while in school. Many are the first in their families to attend college. They have enrolled because the practical and economic realities of their lives have shown them that they need a higher education to get ahead, to fulfill their potential and ambitions. And a community college is often the best available option.

Excellent community colleges propel students of all backgrounds into the middle class. Some community college alumni transfer to a four-year university and go on to become teachers and engineers, doctors, lawyers and business leaders. Others go straight from community college to work, becoming the nurses, advanced manufacturing technicians and engine mechanics who make our communities run.