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We’re seeing more and more how critical community colleges are to the success of so many Americans, young and old:  They’re providing a path back to work for the unemployed and offering the targeted training needed to succeed in specialized jobs—a benefit the Obama administration seeks to further with its Community College to Career initiative.

In a time of deeper and deeper cuts to education budgets, keeping community colleges afloat can prove challenging, but it’s a problem for which technology can provide one possible solution. The fiscal crisis has colleges experimenting with collaborative and virtual efforts to increase access to courses, as online education and mobile learning not only expands community colleges’ reaches, but also saves them money. Through one-time investments in equipment like telepresence endpoints, community colleges can set themselves up to offer increasingly desirable distance learning options for years to come. And, by embracing popular trends like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), community colleges can also configure their networks to support mass wireless connectivity and virtual access, mobilizing their academic offerings and making them more attractive to potential students.

Video technologies like telepresence that allow for anywhere, anytime learning can also up the stagnant graduation rate for community college students. As Dr. Jill Biden noted on the White House Blog, community college students tend to have a lot more on their plates -- going to school, working and raising families, and finishing a degree can present overwhelming challenges. Technology that gives students the flexibility to attend classes from home or an office conference room, turn in assignments via email—or even video conference—from a tablet or smartphone, or meet virtually with other students to complete group projects would make graduation that much more feasible. And it’s that diploma that ultimately makes a bright future possible.

If you’re in Denver this week attending Educause 2012, please drop the Cisco booth #1114 for demonstrations and presentations by Cisco education technology experts. We’d welcome the opportunity to discuss how collaboration technologies can help increase student access in higher education.

Are you a community college student, teacher or leader? How could video technology further your institution’s efforts to provide quality education programs?

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