Valuing higher education for all
A recent article about community colleges in Inside Higher Ed written by a community college dean got me thinking about why we have to remind people that community college is college. Community colleges were created to make higher education accessible and affordable to all Americans. It IS college. College is even part of our name!
In Kentucky, we have 16 community colleges with more than 70 locations. We educate more students than any other higher ed institution in Kentucky – nearly half of all undergraduates to be more precise.
There’s a community college within a 30-minute drive of most people. Our tuition is the lowest in the state. We offer general education classes just like universities, but we also offer technical programs that most of them don’t offer.
Students can take a short-term program and start work in weeks, not months, in good- paying, high-demand careers. In some cases, companies are hiring our students before they finish their programs.
With all the quality programs we offer, success of our graduates and our involvement in communities, there continues to be a stigma about community colleges that I don’t understand. Yes, we’re different from universities, but that’s not a bad thing.
I appreciate our four-year partners and believe that higher education at all levels helps individuals, families, communities and our state. However, I also believe that not everyone wants to attend a university, and that’s OK.
Younger generations are beginning to see the value of shorter-term programs and certifications that lead directly to work. They’ve realized they don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree or high student loan debt to have a good career. They are interested in getting started faster in their preferred field and see community colleges as the way to do that.
At KCTCS, our mission is to improve the lives and employability of Kentuckians. As we move out of the pandemic, our colleges are providing the training and education Kentuckians need to get the economy moving again. We have partnerships with businesses all across the state, and we align our programs with their needs so our students can walk out of college prepared to go to work.
April is Community College Month, and one of the reasons it was created was to help change misperceptions about community colleges. Let’s end the stigma surrounding community college and value higher education for all.