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BALTIMORE -- Meet the newest at-risk population confronting the nation's community colleges.
They are young and old, though a large percentage is middle-aged or older. They are black and white, and every shade in between. Large numbers have never set foot on a college campus, and many never graduated from high school, though some have advanced college degrees.
They are displaced workers, defined by federal authorities as an employee 20 years-of age or older who lost his or her job because their company closed, relocated, abolished their position or shift or did not have enough work to give the employee.
And they are everywhere, populating college campuses in growing numbers and testing the ability of the institutions to provide them with the skills they need to re-enter the workforce and make a living wage.
One of the worst economic downturns in modern history has produced growing legions of workers who have permanently lost their jobs. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about 4 million long-term displaced workers among the nation's 15 million unemployed. One in four of the displaced workers lost a manufacturing job.
They share many of the characteristics of other at-risk groups, said Melissa Tulle, assistant director of strategy development and organization at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. About 1,800 newly-displaced workers are enrolled at the school, "many having lost their jobs in 2008 when a GM truck plant closed its doors.
"It is one of the most at-risk populations we are working with on campus today. They have a lot of barriers," she said. "Many of them require developmental course work. Many of them never expected to be in the college environment. Some were not successful in high school. They have financial barriers, families to support."
Part of the Equation
Efforts of …