Community Colleges: America’s Engines for Social Mobility

Ian Magruder | 25 Jul 2019

At a time when economic inequality in America has become an urgent national concern, one type of institution is providing a powerful antidote to the lack of opportunity that many people experience. America’s community colleges serve more than 8 million people annually from every state in the nation, across more than 1,000 colleges. The quality of instruction at these schools is often excellent. There are many reasons why people from all ages and backgrounds attend community college – specialized job training, ongoing learning, a more affordable pathway to a four-year degree – all of them valid. But community colleges’ most meaningful role is to provide opportunity to those who may otherwise lack opportunity. 

young-Ian-giving-a-speech-at-Cabrillo-CollegeI know all this in part because I’ve experienced it myself. As a high school student, I enrolled in courses at my local community college. Soon I was spending almost all day on campus, engaged in and outside of the classroom, taking courses on everything from calculus, physics, and chemistry to yoga, swimming, and leadership development at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz County. I became a student leader and was elected vice president of the student body, organizing activities, food drives, and managing a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When I graduated high school, I was fortunate to go on to get my B.A. at UC Berkeley, another incredible public institution. There, I realized that my experiences from community college left me feeling much more prepared for the independence and self-motivation needed to navigate a large, academically challenging school than most of my peers who had followed a more traditional path. But what struck me most was that the quality of the classroom instruction at Cabrillo had been just as good (if not better) than Berkeley. While the professors at Berkeley might have won more prestigious awards, the smaller classroom sizes and genuine passion for teaching at Cabrillo left a stronger impression on me.

For me, community college was a helpful pathway and a place where I found community. For others, it’s an essential lifeline to career advancement when other doors have closed. In the wake of losing more than five million U.S. manufacturing jobs since the year 2000, community colleges are uniquely well-positioned as “first responders” to offer support to displaced workers through job training programs, technical courses, and flexible schedules that accommodate part-time work. And for students who can’t always afford expensive four-year universities, the option to save on tuition at a community college before transferring to a four-year program can be the critical factor that makes a bachelor’s degree attainable. Earlier this week, the University of California system announced that it accepted a record-breaking number of transfer students: 28,752 for the 2019-20 academic year. 

At Landed, we see our mission to help essential professionals, starting with educators, build financial security as deeply aligned with the work that community colleges do to provide pathways to economic mobility. This is why we’re particularly proud to be able to expand our homebuying programs beyond K-12 to serve community college faculty and staff, including Cabrillo College. Just as community colleges provide their students with new options to get a leg up in their careers, we hope to provide the employees who teach and support these students with new options to get a leg up to purchase a home and feel rooted in their communities.

Ian-Magruder-at-Cabrillo-College-with-others

To learn more about Ian’s journey to bring Landed to Cabrillo College, read this story in The Cabrillo Voice. Community college employees are encouraged to sign up to learn more about Landed’s down payment program and the other homebuying programs we provide.

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About the Author

Ian Magruder

Lead for Partnerships and Expansion at Landed. Former campaign organizer, current volunteer leadership development trainer, and forever a seafood lover.

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