Clark Kerr, the former chancellor of the University of California, had a good idea. He wanted to make college more affordable for more people, and simultaneously build excellence in higher education for California.

He did both.

He proposed a three-tiered statewide system for higher education: Community colleges allowing broad access and teaching excellence for workforce education and university preparedness, research universities focused on research and innovation, and state colleges granting bachelor’s and master’s degrees. This created a potent environment for higher education in California.

There are roughly 1,200 community colleges nationally, serving 6.5 million students. In all but ten states 70% of the population lives within 25 miles of a community college. In twenty states 90% of the population lives within the same access radius according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Community Colleges are open, convenient, and cost effective and are educational outposts for research universities, not competition.

Kerr had the gift of a compelling vision.