Cultivating a Promising Workforce

Student reaction to free college campaign

Reginald Webb, Times Staff

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The College Promise to make community college free is becoming a reality.  San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said as much in his State of the City Address

Setting aside scholarships making community college fees on behalf of the city is good politics and a meaningful cause. The problem is everyone is signing on to the concept with little clarity as to how and when it will take place. Is it the city, the state, the federal government? Who is the primary branch of government implementing it? Politicians of every stripe from mayors to assemblymen to community college board members all say they are for this promise yet a clear path to making it reality is unclear.

A much closer look reveals the initiative does not do much in the way of addressing the core challenges and obstacles facing potential students.  San Jose City, DeAnza and West Valley College’s’ average student age ranges from 25-28 years old.   Many prospective students going or preparing to go back to school or changing career paths have children. Childcare might be a challenge of higher priority for these students. Free preschool might address the needs of these students more than free tuition.

The fees are not as expensive as the loss in income one might accrue after taking on the initiative of school.  Books are astronomical so it might be more of a benefit to look at formulating a curriculum that focuses on tablet based reading materials and online curriculum.

Likewise, being able to better evaluate the investment is in the best interest of a city with an extremely tight budget, Coordination with the private sector and their immediate needs as far as students having workable skills that meet the demands of the local job market seem like a more effective use of money and leadership efforts such an initiative would require.

Home- growing the workforce in Silicon Valley could begin to be an alternative to always importing the valley’s labor needs from other states and other countries that contribute to the runaway population growth and high cost of housing.

Developing close partnerships with the private sector and creating mentorships and clear paths of learning to meet the needs of these local high tech companies is a necessity for any college free promise program to be ultimately successful.