Commentary: Crises like the one we’re in make clear that community colleges are essential

Coastline Community College.
Coastline Community College’s Newport Beach campus.
(Daily Pilot)

Community colleges offer a proven, practical, time-tested solution in this time of crisis.

While public health measures can help keep us safe and coronavirus infection from spreading, community colleges ensure that our time is well spent, and we are investing our efforts for our future.

For those who have not yet mastered the English language, many ESL courses are continuing so that students get that necessary, daily practice.

For those who have not completed high school, adult education programs teach the General Education Development (GED) test or other high school equivalency exams.


People in this socioeconomic group are often so concerned with day-to-day survival that they do not have time for education. However, now is the best time to start getting this basic education in functional English-language skills or a high school diploma, as there is not much to miss out on in the work world.

For those in high school, they can take advantage of Coastline Community College’s well-established online learning program and get started, even today, on classes that are being taught in summer and fall.

Considering that many colleges, even Harvard, are resorting to online education for the foreseeable future, someone who gets community college for free or at a low cost has a comparable education with expensive, top-ranked schools.

For those in a four-year college, community college is an excellent resource to stay at home and be able to earn credits. Many people who are currently enrolled in Cal State and University of California schools can work with the counselors of both their universities and community colleges to make sure they can take courses that will transfer.

With unemployment and underemployment at record numbers, community college offers career and technical education that is especially relevant. Even before this coronavirus pandemic, personal care workers and home health aides were the highest growing job field in Orange County for the last several years and the foreseeable decade.

To lead by example, I have been teaching a home health aide preparation course for Chinese students who wish to immigrate to Western countries and work as nurse assistants, with a particular emphasis on infection prevention. Many people who are already skilled at a profession in China are working hard to learn English, get necessary certification and eventually use their skills to immigrate to new countries.

This coronavirus has devastated our world economy, and many countries are borrowing money to feed cash into citizens’ pockets for ready spending to boost the economy. Let us make the best of this situation and put money and effort into our local education and services they are providing, such as food banks and their health clinics. Not only does this make sense idealistically but also practically.

Should Orange County wish to remain the best area in the world to live in, we can support our local community colleges for the immediate relief and longer-term skills building and socialization they provide to make informed, capable and productive citizens.

The writer is a former Newport Beach resident who now lives in Beijing.

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