Economic mobility drives more vibrant communities and economies

Economic mobility is the ability of a person or family to change their economic status over time, increasing their earning potential, improving their quality of life and opening the door to opportunity. More succinctly, it is the capacity to pursue the American Dream.

At its heart, economic mobility is moving from less to more, from want to wealth, from poverty to plenty. Many American families have such a story in their history.

Our nation has wrestled with for the inequity in that pursuit for its entire existence. Those in lower socioeconomic classes, frequently populated by people of color, have lacked the tools to create economic mobility for themselves and their families. But the impact extends far beyond individuals and households — economic mobility is also a key component in the vibrancy of communities and local economies. Without the essential tools, our region’s vast talent pool can never be properly developed and utilized to grow businesses, create jobs and expand our economy.

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®) serves much of Greater Cleveland’s less-advantaged populations. We see firsthand the problems caused by inequity in the pursuit of economic mobility and the critical role that community colleges play in combatting that inequity.

As part of the engine that drives the democratization of higher education, Tri-C brings educational access to all. We provide career readiness and real-world skills that allow people to climb the ladder of success.

In Northeast Ohio, the need to build ladders to success is especially pronounced. According to data compiled by economist and Harvard professor Raj Chetty, fewer than 40 percent of children born into poverty in Cuyahoga County will acquire the tools necessary to increase their economic standing during their lifetime. The story is the same throughout much of the state, as well as the Great Lakes region.

Tri-C meets people where they are and connects them. At the bottom are students seeking training that will lead to a new career and better life; at the top are businesses seeking trained, qualified employees to help them grow.

Tri-C is a critical connector of these two groups. Through partnerships in a variety of industries, we work alongside area businesses to develop academic and training programs that meet the widespread need for skilled workers throughout Northeast Ohio.

At the other end, we connect residents with opportunity through initiatives such as Tri-C Access Centers, which bring increased access to education and training into Cleveland’s neighborhoods, and Job Hubs, in which we partner with area companies to provide training and career pathways.

By actively pursuing partnerships with area businesses and engaging with students seeking positive economic mobility, we are helping to bridge the skills gap — and socioeconomic gap — present in our region for decades. And it doesn’t end when a student graduates or a business fills positions. Tri-C is a lifelong learning partner helping individuals, and businesses adapt as the economy and educational needs change.

We will continue to expand partnerships within the business community and serve as an educational resource for students, including those gaining new skills through post-degree certificate programs and professional development opportunities such as those available through Corporate College®.

Economic mobility is about individuals, but it’s also about the collective. When more people are afforded opportunities to climb the ladder of success, neighborhoods, communities and the entire region benefit. ●

Michael A. Baston is President of Cuyahoga Community College

Michael A. Baston



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