Community college surge: IT education on a budget

Community colleges are bursting at the seams, as students clamor for the adaptive, skills-driven education these schools offer -- all at rock-bottom prices.

When Bob Kansa graduated with a bachelor's degree in computer science almost 40 years ago, a surprise awaited him on his first day of work: He was unprepared for the job.

"The courses I took in college were not directly related to what I was doing on the job," says Kansa, now associate dean of IT at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich. "I was asked to do some programming [that] I was totally unprepared for." Whereas the school taught console I/O for direct-access Fortran applications, for example, his job required file I/O. The college also taught regression and how to write an operating system boot loader -- skills that never came into play in all his years in the industry, he says.

Kansa and others are advocating alternatives to the traditional four-year-university path to an IT career. Technology education gurus such as Howard Rubin, professor emeritus of the City University of New York and president of Rubin Systems Inc., argue that for the U.S. to remain competitive in today's global and volatile economy, it needs to create a deep bench of perpetually cutting-edge technology professionals.

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