Community Colleges: More Than a Reasonable Alternative to Success

Community Colleges: More Than a Reasonable Alternative to Success

Twenty-six years ago when I began my professional career, I told the dean with whom I interviewed that the reason I wanted to teach at a community college was because students who enrolled there did so because they wanted an education. Not because of the football team or band, or because their parents attended, but because they wanted to get ahead in life and felt that the small classes and affordable cost would assist them in that endeavor. Now, as president of a community college, I believe this more strongly than ever. 
Many people are unaware of the role our nation’s more than 1,200 community colleges play in educating students today. Two major components of the mission of community colleges are providing the first two years of a liberal arts education, and training in occupational and technical areas.
With the average age of our students being 27, our course offerings are not only designed for the recent high school graduate but also for those who are currently employed but need to be retrained.
Statistics from the Educational Testing Service’s Leadership 2000 Series reveals that “by 2015, African Americans are projected to make up 14.5 percent of all 18-24 year olds but [they] project them to account for only 11.9 percent of 18-24 year old undergraduates.”
Additionally, studies conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics in 1997 show that “47 percent of Black high school graduates are college-qualified, but only 42 percent actually enroll.”
We must do something to increase the contributions African Americans will make in the future.
 In a time of economic boom such as the one we’re experiencing today — caused largely by the revolution in technology — it is imperative that the work force has the skills necessary to be productive. In order to ensure and strengthen our position to compete in a global economy, all members of our nation must be prepared. Now, more than ever, education makes the difference between poverty and comfort.
All employees, regardless of their chosen career field, will need stronger skills. All successful employees will need to be able to communicate effectively with co-workers and customers, successfully work in groups without the benefit of designated leaders, and take leadership roles and responsibility.
Community colleges can make these skills possible in three major ways. First, through low tuition, they make it possible for just about everyone to attend.
Second, community colleges have open access to all students who are able to benefit from what they have to offer, regardless of previous academic skills. Through remedial courses, students who have not performed well in the past can build their skills so that they can become competitive in academic classes and, subsequently, in the workplace.
Third, through short-term noncredit courses and Web-based courses, community colleges reduce the time spent in class by providing instruction at the student’s place of work. 
At no other time in history has education meant more both in terms of the skills needed by or the financial payoff to employees. 
It is through an educated nation that change occurs. In the ’60s, new attitudes about women and new civil rights laws resulted in more and more women and minorities entering academia and the work force, and more and more changes in attitudes because of their presence. The numbers are still there. It is imperative that each and every one of us prepares to contribute to the well being of our nation in order to keep it at the pinnacle of international prominence. 



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