America’s Hidden Economic Engines

America’s Hidden Economic Engines How Community Colleges Can Drive Shared Prosperity

Edited by Robert B. Schwartz and Rachel Lipson, Foreword by Harry J. Holzer 
paper, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: June 2023
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-816-6
Price: $36.00

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Five in-depth case studies reveal the innovative practices that position U.S. community colleges as pathways to quality employment. ​

In America’s Hidden Economic Engines, editors Robert B. Schwartz and Rachel Lipson spotlight community and technical colleges as institutions uniquely equipped to foster more equitable economic growth across America’s regions. As Schwartz and Lipson show, these colleges are the best-placed institutions to reverse the decades-long rise in US economic inequality by race, class, and geography. 


Schwartz and Lipson make a powerful case for why community colleges will be critical to building the next generation of good jobs in America. By investing in pathways for Americans without four-year degrees, we can ignite an economy that works for the many and not just the few. These five colleges, spanning from Ohio to Arizona to Virginia to Mississippi, show what’s possible when America’s educators and employers work together to revitalize our regional economies and grow the jobs of the future. — Ro Khanna, Silicon Valley member of Congress and author of Dignity in a Digital Age

If the nation is to respond to pressure to raise workforce skills and spread prosperity, community colleges must be the nexus for training, access, and equitable mobility. America’s Hidden Economic Engines is a handbook to make this happen. It combines a powerful vision for cooperation; in-depth analysis of innovation across diverse institutions; and a strategy to catalyze leadership to meet regional labor market demands. — Karen A. Stout, president and CEO, Achieving the Dream

With profiles of five standout institutions each focused on job readiness and career success, Schwartz and Lipson convince us that America’s community colleges are the most practical, scalable means to a highly skilled workforce, income mobility, and equitable economic growth. America’s Hidden Economic Engines should be required reading for educators, economists, and policy makers. — Kenneth Adams, president, LaGuardia Community College

Despite some common narratives, the median worker in the US does not have a bachelor's degree, but rather is skilled through alternative routes. In America’s Hidden Economic Engines, Lipson and Schwartz demonstrate the potential of community colleges as vital routes to opportunity for a nation of working learners. Their inspired case studies of community colleges as an adaptive resource for learners and employers alike make the case to fully unleash their potential. — Byron Auguste, CEO and cofounder, Opportunity@Work

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About the Author

Robert B. Schwartz is a professor emeritus of practice in educational policy and administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, senior advisor at the Harvard Project on Workforce, and cofounder of the Pathways to Prosperity Network. Rachel Lipson is the director of the Project on Workforce at Harvard University. Her research focuses on creating smoother connections between postsecondary education and good jobs.   

Work and Learning series