Rahm Emanuel’s Ideas for Improving Higher Ed

From this profile of Rahm Emanuel in the Atlantic, there’s this excellent nugget on how he’s reforming Chicago’s community colleges:

IN HIS 2006 book, The Plan, Rahm proposed that all Americans go to school for at least 14 years. Like Presidents Clinton and Obama, he has long seen community colleges as crucial to preparing the American workforce for global competition and to saving young people who would otherwise be condemned to poverty. But Chicago’s city colleges have become dysfunctional, with graduation rates a pathetic 7 percent. (Nationally, only 15 out of 35 community-college systems graduate more than 50 percent.) “We have 9.4 percent unemployment, 100,000 job openings, and I’m spending a couple hundred million dollars on job training,” Rahm tells me. He pauses to let the absurdity of this sink in. “So we are going to reorganize it.”

Rahm fired almost all the college presidents, hired replacements after a national search, and decreed that six of the seven city-run colleges would have a special concentration. Corporations pledging to hire graduates will have a big hand in designing and implementing curricula. “You’re not going for four years, and you’re not going for a Nobel Prize or a research breakthrough,” he says. “This is about dealing with the nursing shortage, the lab-tech shortage. Hotels and restaurants will take over the curriculum for culinary and hospitality training.” Already AAR, a company that has 600 job openings for welders and mechanics, is partnering with Olive-Harvey College; Northwestern Memorial Hospital is designing job training in health care for Malcolm X College. Equally important, the city colleges are overhauling their inadequate guidance services and contacting the 15,000 students most likely to drop out. As of March, all 120,000 students are being tracked, and those in danger of slipping through the cracks will be counseled. Thinking big, Rahm wants Chicago to be the national model for rescuing the middle class.

Makes a ton of sense. If a kid is in a community college trying get trained for work in a restaurant or a hotel, why the heck wouldn’t the potential employers of those students have their hands all over the curricula? Hopefully Rahm’s model inspires imitators.

6 comments on “Rahm Emanuel’s Ideas for Improving Higher Ed
  • Yes, his ideas are practical and hopefully will prove successful. I am taken aback by the picture, though: Politician’s pose, ostentatiously expensive suit, ornate even gaudy setting, not another person or living creature in sight… This is how we introduce someone whose focus is to be working class individuals who are struggling to find employment or pass community college courses? Striking juxtaposition.

  • Rahm is right on. Chicago’s community colleges, like many community colleges and continuing education programs, have the same business model developed in the middle ages. Yea- the Sorbonne, Oxford, etc. Training someone academically has its place, no disagreement there, but if we want to address unemployment and the lack of training for many unemployed, then we need to have this conversation.

  • Rahm is looking more like the Chris Christie of the Dem Party. Blue Collar, centrist on any of the items I give a rat’s *ss about, and he tells it like it is. He isn’t a show pony, that’s for sure.

  • Personally I don’t know of this gentleman Mr Rahm but his ethos on how to get involvement of big companies in the curricula makes perfect sense. This rate of graduation is deplorable and so needs attention. Great idea to track students and counsel where appropriate. At university we had to sign in for all tutorials and if we missed one we had to have a valid excuse otherwise we were in front of the Departmental Head! Hope it proves a success!

  • I missed the Rahm article somehow. Great stuff.

    Loved the community college model work. It’s dead-on with what I’ve advocated for. Which basically means I ripped it off from German, where I believe this is much more the norm.

    Anyway, thanks!

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