Donald Astrab became president of Nassau Community College in November. Shaun L. McKay assumed the same post at Suffolk

County Community College last month.

The pair takes command of the state's two largest community colleges at an auspicious time of record enrollment and unprecedented demand - in a weak economy, high school graduates seeking lower tuition have flocked to community colleges while adults looking to increase job options are returning for career training or retraining.

President Barack Obama is among those who have extolled the importance of community colleges in helping to revitalize the economy. In July, he proposed spending $12 billion to bolster community colleges, which he said would lead to 5 million more graduates in the next decade. Legislation passed last month by Congress provided $2 billion over four years to develop and improve education and career training programs at community colleges. Last week, Obama asked Jill Biden, a community college instructor and wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to host a summit on community colleges this fall at the White House.

Nationally, full-time community college enrollment has increased by 24 percent during the past two years, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

On Long Island, Astrab and McKay face the challenge of serving these growing student bodies at a time of declining state aid and tightening budgets.

So far, the energy and insight each has brought to the job has impressed their campuses.

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