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A new report details the benefits of work-based learning opportunities at community colleges and some of the ways these programs could improve.

The report, released Tuesday by New America, a Washington, D.C., think tank, is based on an analysis of internship programs at five community colleges: Middlesex Community College, Salt Lake Community College, San Antonio College, Cuyahoga Community College and Bunker Hill Community College. New America staff members conducted interviews with program directors and campus administrators.

The findings suggest that students value paid internship opportunities on campuses or nearby, and these programs can enhance student retention. The report notes that community colleges have funded these programs in a variety of ways, such as drawing on federal COVID-19 relief dollars and Pell Grants, philanthropic donations, and internal funding. It also raises some concerns, notably that these internship programs rarely track student outcomes.

“The community college and workforce development fields need greater transparency and clarity on the design of these programs to broaden workforce pathways, ensure the transferability of exemplary program models, and support the advancement of equitable outcomes for all students, especially learners from historically underserved and underprivileged backgrounds,” the report states.

The report recommends that college program directors and administrators focus on recruiting students from underrepresented backgrounds into these programs. It notes, for example, that Bunker Hill boosted the number of minority men participating in its program by changing its outreach methods, including getting rid of GPA cutoffs and long, multiround interview processes. Other suggestions in the report include paying students at least $15 per hour and conducting annual program evaluations and tracking student outcomes.