$2 billion that could change online education

Still, the federal jobs-training initiative was disappointing for community college decision makers who believed the original AGI plan would revolutionize two-year campuses in the U.S.

“There’s a feeling that community colleges are always underfunded and under-recognized,” said Orlando Montoya, provost of Miami Dade College (MDC), which, with more than 170,000 students and eight campuses, ranks as the largest two-year institution in the U.S. “We had the hope that more recognition and support was going to come our way … but the political process didn’t allow for it.”

Montoya said MDC will team up with 22 Florida community colleges this year and apply for a federal grant through a consortium.

“We want to create a computerized clearinghouse for displaced workers and others who want to acquire skills immediately,” he said, adding that the MDC would also use grant money to provide professional development for faculty members who aren’t yet prepared to teach certain subjects. “We can’t do any of this without money. … The $2 billion is very much appreciated.”

The goal of the grants program, according to ED’s announcement, is to “prepare program participants for employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations.” Accomplishing that will require an expansion of higher education, particularly online courses.

The incentive to develop high-quality web-based content comes as two-year college officials are struggling to find ways to accommodate unprecedented enrollment spikes. Since the economy’s downturn in fall 2008, Americans have turned to two-year schools to boost credentials while they are unemployed or underemployed.

Many two-year campuses, including Bunker Hill Community College in Massachusetts and Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri, have started late-night and early-morning class times as enrollment has risen over the past two years. Even with these policies, community colleges have struggled to keep pace.

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