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Do community colleges provide a quality education?

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During The Daily Circuit Friday, we discussed anti-intellectualism in the race for the GOP nomination for president. Kerri Miller was asking our guests about whether the political bases of both the Republican and Democratic party tend to draw from certain income brackets.

One of our guests, Daily Caller senior contributor Matt Lewis, said he thinks people with college educations will likely vote for Obama and those with just a high school diploma will vote for the GOP nominee.

Our other guest, scholar Susan Jacoby, said it's more nuanced than that. She said it isn't right to say people are either college educated or not because a lot of people have some college experience, likely from a community college, but they never finished their degree.

"One of the things we're leaving out here is that we're a country in which a majority of people are not four-year college graduates," she said. "One of the things you have is a big middle, that's gone for a year or two of very bad community colleges. That, while they might prepare you for a job or they may not, you're not learning very much in them."

Rassoul Dastmozd, St. Paul College president, spoke to The Daily Circuit about Jacoby's comment.

"I just have a hard time understanding the facts being used by Ms. Jacoby to conclude that, you know, that... some community colleges provide one or two years of bad training," he said. "From my world view, education is a broad spectrum. There's a place for everyone. There's a time and place for everyone. You make what you wanna make out of education."

If a school isn't providing a quality education, administrators hear about it, Dastmozd said.

Emily Hanford, a reporter for the American RadioWorks documentary unit at American Public Media, has reported a lot about community colleges and produced documentaries including "Some College, No Degree". There's a wide variety of community college experiences across the country, she said.

"I think it's widely acknowledged that there's a lot of work to be done at the community college level," Hanford said. "There are a lot of students who are going to community college and they're not getting what they want and they're not getting what they need." 

One of the reasons that community college students are unhappy is because the system is overwhelmed, she said.

"There is a huge demand for higher education," Hanford said. "We have not in the public college system increased the number of seats or space available to meet that need. And so people go to community colleges and a lot of times they feel lost."

American Public Media is the parent company of MPR.