April is Community College Month in the United States, an appropriate time to step back and appreciate the important role community colleges play in our education system. If education is “the great equalizer” in society, as American education reformer Horace Mann famously said, then community colleges are the great equalizer of the higher education system.  

Community colleges offer an affordable and accessible education to students of all backgrounds, regardless of their financial status, immigration status or academic abilities. They provide a dependable bridge to four-year universities, vocational schools, or the workforce. Community colleges are accessible to anyone who wants to learn, regardless of their academic background, and offer flexible schedules to accommodate students’ needs.  

Community colleges support a diverse student body, including first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color. This diversity enriches the learning experience for all students and provides an opportunity for individuals to learn from each other’s backgrounds and experiences. 

Furthermore, community colleges are often located in urban or rural areas, making them accessible to individuals who may not have access to a four-year university in their community. This allows students to stay close to home while pursuing higher education, which can be especially beneficial for those who need to work while attending school or have family obligations. 

Community colleges also have a significant impact on the economy, providing an economic ladder that boosts economic mobility, an essential part of the American dream. They provide a skilled workforce that is essential to important industries such as healthcare, technology, and manufacturing.  

There are many examples of individuals who have achieved great success starting with a community college—think Sonia Sotomayor, or Jeff Bezos—but it’s just as important to shine a light on the millions of Americans who have used community colleges as a bridge to successful careers as nurses, firefighters, police officers, mechanics, cooks and teachers. In short, community colleges provide vital education services to those who provide vital community services.  

Despite their many benefits, community colleges are often overlooked and undervalued. Community College Month is an opportunity to celebrate the impact of community colleges on both individuals and communities. Through a community college education, individuals can gain the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve their dreams and make a positive impact in their communities.