How could this be done? One good way could be to merge community colleges with trade schools. Right now it’s an either-or situation. Students can attend a trade school or they can attend a community college. There is no back and forth, since you cannot transfer credits from a trade school into a community college (or into a 4-year college). This is a real shame, because there are probably many trade school students who would like to advance their education, but they cannot get into an academic route.
If trade schools were merged with community colleges, then we could have the best of both worlds. The trade school portion of the education could teach real-world skills that are in demand, while the community college portion of the education could weave the English/Math/Social Studies and Sciences directly into their real world purposes. And, in fact, learning theories suggest that this is the ideal way to learn — learning in context.
We would now have a trade school education that is more “academic” to meet the increased learning needs of the 21st century, and we would also have a community college education that is more “relevant” to its real-world purposes. With both entities working together, students would have a better chance of moving directly into a well-paying job. Also, they may be less likely to need remedial coursework, since the learning in context would make their learning more concrete and less “abstract.” Students can also get one 2-year degree that can also be transferred to a 4-year college.
President Obama gets an A for effort by promoting a free community college education. But until community colleges are improved (they currently graduate less than 20% of the students they enroll), this effort will not lead to the best results.