The Washington Post — Nick Anderson and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel

Community colleges, long the unsung foundation of higher education in America, have reached a perilous turning point. These two-year public colleges, offering associate’s degrees, workforce training and a low-price opportunity to get started on a bachelor’s degree, had roughly 10 percent fewer students at the beginning of the school year compared with 2019.

Growing community colleges matters not only for the economy, experts say, but also for the causes of racial and social justice. Huge numbers of students of color rely on them to climb the social ladder: About 13 percent of students at public two-year colleges in 2019 were Black, and 26 percent were Hispanic. Community colleges embody many American ideals.

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