The Great Resignation is upon us. In September alone, about 4.4 million workers walked away from unfulfilling or low-wage jobs, looking for more promise, purpose, and pay. Community colleges are stepping up to offer Americans paths to careers, but the route from college to job isn’t always clear.

Nearly 40 percent of adults surveyed by the Community College Research Center either didn’t know about community colleges or weren’t sure the schools provide what is needed. Community colleges are working to increase support for adult students. But simply creating new programs and services won’t make people enroll. National Student Clearinghouse data shows a 14.1 percent enrollment dip in these institutions from 2019 to 2021, a trend that worsened during the pandemic.

Perhaps adult workers are tired. Or confused by a crowded field of training and credential options.

At Lumina Foundation, we’re supporting community colleges that are prioritizing efforts to improve enrollment of adult students. Through the Prioritizing Adult Community College Enrollment grant (PACCE), Lumina is working with Achieving the Dream, Ideas 42, RPK Group, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to fund and support 20 community colleges in scaling efforts to increase adult student enrollment. The grant’s emphasis is on Black, Hispanic and Latino, and Native American students.

The participating colleges serve rural, suburban, and urban communities across eight states from New York to California. In total, the schools include more than 250,000 students in both academic and training programs.

These schools are just a small fraction of more than 1,000 community colleges across the nation that offer programs and services for adult learners. But adults can’t take advantage of opportunities they don’t know about, so we must improve their paths from interest to enrollment to employment. Only then can we turn the Great Resignation into the Great Opportunity.

Back to News