Let’s stop the negative narrative about higher ed
A trend I’m having trouble understanding is running amok in the U.S. According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed: “In 2013, 70 percent of Americans viewed a college education as “very important.” That number has dropped nearly 20 points in recent years. Moreover, nearly 40 percent of Americans thought that colleges and universities were having a negative effect on the way things were going in the country in 2019. More than half believe that the higher education system in the U.S. is going in the wrong direction; the cost of tuition and the perception that students are not getting the skills they need for the workplace are identified as the key reasons for this view.”
From my vantage point, this perception is all wrong. Earning college credentials has never been more important. A high school diploma alone no longer cuts it.
I see what’s happening at our colleges, and I can tell you the work being done is preparing students for careers. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, we honored nearly 3,000 graduates from our advanced manufacturing programs and the more than 400 companies that are hiring them. That’s just one example of the many areas in which we are preparing graduates for good careers. The health care field is another. Additionally, short-term programs like line worker and commercial driver’s license (CDL) can be completed in weeks and grads go to work in high demand careers that pay well. Many have jobs waiting when they graduate.
Even with the challenges of the past year, we’ve had outstanding results. Most people may not know this, but KCTCS is number two in the nation for credentials awarded at two-year, public colleges.
There’s no doubt that many of the negative perceptions about the high cost of college does not take into account the affordability of community colleges. Our 16 colleges offer the lowest cost in Kentucky. Although the majority of our students receive some type of financial aid, very few are taking out student loans. When they do, the amount borrowed is less than $5000. That’s a far cry from the hundreds of thousands in student debt that the media likes to talk about.
The Inside Higher Ed article is titled Reclaiming the Narrative, and the author has it right. We in higher ed, especially those of us at community colleges, must speak out about the negative perceptions we’re hearing. I need all of our faculty and staff as well as current students and alumni to correct these inaccurate assumptions whenever they hear them.
At KCTCS our mission is to improve the lives and employability of Kentuckians. We’re doing that every day. As a matter of fact, to date, we’ve served more than one million people. We’re preparing them for good careers, and we’re doing it at an affordable price.