Community colleges—an American innovation

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The year was 1901, and as the world was celebrating the beginning of the 20th century, two major events occurred which would shape the future of Midland:  Oil was discovered at Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas, and the first community college was formed in Joliet, Illinois.

In 1947, President Harry Truman called for the establishment of a network of public community colleges that would charge little or no tuition.

Community colleges are a true American innovation—a product of twentieth-century American higher education.  In 1947, President Harry Truman called for the establishment of a network of public community colleges that would charge little or no tuition, serve as cultural centers, be comprehensive in program offerings, emphasize civic responsibility and serve the areas in which they are located.

Sixty-six years later, 36 percent of Midland County high school graduates attend Midland College, and nationwide, over 40 percent of all American undergraduate students attend community and junior colleges.  In today’s economy, American careers have undergone immense and dramatic changes.  The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that college graduates will have 13 careers in their lifetime.  Five of those careers don’t even exist yet!

Now in 2013—over 100 years after Spindletop and the founding of Joliet Junior College—the Permian Basin produces one-fifth of the nation’s total petroleum and natural gas output, and Midland College remains steadfastly committed to providing programs dedicated to the needs of Midlanders and Midland’s ever-growing economy.

Rebecca Bell

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