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Community colleges are the institutions of higher education in rural America. The Associated Press notes today, however, that a downturn in state budgets is stripping community colleges of their funding — just at the time when students are flooding back into schools to gain skills. 

There are 1,200 community colleges (or technical training centers) in the U.S., many of them in rural areas. But the recession is making it harder for students to work their way through school. And most states are cutting funding. AP reporter Eric Gorski tells that one state community college in Detroit has cut 100 academic programs in the last year. “A survey of 128 community college systems released last week found that 52 percent reported reductions in their operating budgets this year, a slight improvement over last year’s grim numbers,” Gorski writes. “But those facing cuts face steeper ones: the number of campuses with cuts exceeding 10 percent more than doubled.”

Last fall, the House passed a bill that called for community colleges to receive $10 billion. When the bill finally made it out of Congress this year, the amount had been reduced to $2 billion. “A significant portion of higher education is hunkered down, trying to wait out the storm,” said one college president. “We’ve taken the approach that while things will get better, they will never get back to the way they were. We’re going to have to find new ways to do our work.”

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