The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced new grants to help states and community colleges improve remedial education and college completion. The grants, totaling $16.5 million, were awarded to five states and fifteen community colleges and represent the second wave in an effort the foundation began in 2004.
As college costs continue to rise, an increasing amount of attention is being paid to community colleges as a cost-effective alternative to the traditional four-year university. Greater emphasis on higher education, such as President Obama's earlier urging for every American to receive some amount of post-secondary education, have also brought community colleges into focus. In addition to being affordable and local, community colleges often focus on career-oriented education, which can help the unemployed or those who are looking for better job security quickly and effectively pick up skills and certification to achieve career goals.
Despite the benefits of a community college education, many students who enroll struggle to finish. As many as 60 percent of community college students may need remedial courses, including up to 90 percent of low-income and minority students at these institutions, and students requiring remediation are currently at a disadvantage when it comes to successfully completing requirements to earn a degree. Grants from the Gates Foundation aim to help colleges continue to address this problem, building on the success of previous Gates-funded programs that saw the number of students successfully moving to college-level coursework rise by 16 to 20 percent.
Students will benefit from this grant money through increased access to support services, such as tutoring and academic advising, that can help them meet their college goals. Improved remedial education, a federal focus on community colleges as vital educational institutions, and new state efforts to smooth the process of transferring from two-year to four-year state colleges all have the potential to help a greater number of Americans attain a higher education, and to do so at a lower cost.