Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009

Eduardo Padrón

Too many state universities today want to be as exclusive as the Ivy League, and that's left thousands of students, especially low-income and minority applicants, unable to get an affordable high-quality college education. Enter Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College, the nation's largest community college. The Cuban-born economist has helped revolutionize the role of two-year community colleges in the U.S., raising their academic stature while preserving their mission to teach underserved populations. Miami Dade (enrollment 170,000) now offers honors programs and four-year degrees and enrolls and graduates more minorities than any other college in the country. "It's about combining open access and excellence," says Padrón, adding that community colleges are "no longer third-choice institutions." In fact, they're President Obama's choice: he has proposed $12 billion in new funds for community colleges to help prepare U.S. workers for a 21st century economy. —Tim Padgett