About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, December 11, 2009

LCCC Prez Donald Snyder: The Versatile, Nimble, Efficient & Practical Community College

As President Barack Obama kicked off a national listening tour about the economy last week in the Lehigh Valley, the setting of his keynote speech communicated volumes about the very institutions that are poised to fuel our country’s recovery.

Lehigh Carbon Community College was honored to host President Obama. His continued message of hope and opportunity – tempered with a dose of reality – was welcome inspiration for individuals and businesses facing economic hardships.

President Obama believes in the importance of community colleges. In fact, he has proposed the most significant support for community colleges since the Truman era, when two-thirds of the nation’s community colleges were created.

The President’s “American Graduation Initiative” is intended to strengthen our nation’s community colleges, giving them the resources that students and schools need -- and the results workers and businesses demand. The plan aims to help an additional 5 million Americans earn degrees and certificates in the next decade. He wants the United States to have the highest college graduation rate of any nation in the world. Ambitious? Certainly. Possible? Yes, but only with the involvement of community colleges.

Furthermore, a 2009 report from the Council of Economic Advisers described a shift towards jobs that require greater analytical and interactive skills, and the benefits of higher education. It is expected that jobs requiring at least an associate’s degree will grow twice as fast as jobs requiring only a high school education. In essence, the associate’s degree will soon be the new high school diploma.

As the first decade of a new millennium closes, community colleges stand on the verge of unprecedented magnitude to society. Increasingly, they are being viewed as catalysts for recovery, as engines for prosperity. While none of this is surprising to community college educators, administrators and students, the general public has a newfound appreciation for the unsung educational institutions in today’s challenging economic environment.

Community colleges are versatile. Their curricula reflect an evolving marketplace. It’s likely that community colleges will handle much of the front-line training for President Obama’s initiatives on green energy and infrastructure. They provide instruction on nextgeneration industries such as nanotechnology, robotics and geographic information systems. They offer much of the job retraining that helps the unemployed transfer their job skills to market sectors with more growth potential. For instance, with the reauthorization of the federal Workforce Investment Act, LCCC’s partnership with the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board in providing training for high-priority jobs will be an example of the model that the country needs for utilizing the 1200 community colleges to create a national workforce development structure.

Community colleges are nimble. They can expand rapidly to meet demand. Lehigh Carbon Community College has seen its enrollment double in the past 10 years. Other community colleges have seen similar increases. They were among the first to embrace distance learning to make education convenient for working families. Simply put, they find a way to meet the needs of their community.

Community colleges are efficient. They cost a fraction of traditional four-year colleges, making education more accessible for more Americans. And community colleges have a high return on investment – every $1 of investment yields a $3 net return.

Community colleges are practical. Educators usually have recent industry experience that they can impart to students. Community colleges frequently partner with local companies to ensure a steady supply of talented employees. For example, H1N1 vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur funded two biotechnology laboratories for LCCC, provides scholarships for students, and assisted in the development of the College’s Biotechnology Program.

That’s not to say that our country’s traditional four-year colleges and universities are obsolete or ineffective. Hardly. They will remain global cornerstones of research and innovation. In fact, nearly half of students at LCCC plan to transfer to a four-year institution with the intent of obtaining a bachelor’s degree – or more. For them, community college is an affordable beginning to their post-secondary education. And thanks to partnerships with local school districts, a distinct higher-education pathway has been established for high school and even middle school students to better prepare them for success in higher education and achievement of their desired career choice.

In a June 2009 speech announcing his American Graduation Initiative, President Obama drew comparisons to the bill creating land grant colleges in the mid-1800s and the GI Bill in the mid-1900s. “Time and again, when we placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result -- by tapping the incredible innovative and generative potential of a skilled American workforce,” he said.

That’s exactly what community colleges are all about – helping Americans reach their potential as individuals. And helping America reach its potential as a country.

There are no better institutions than our nation’s community colleges to help the United States rebound and emerge from the recession smarter, stronger and more competitive. Now more than ever, our nation’s community colleges are at the picenter of our economy.

We call on our federal and state legislators to continue their crucial support of community colleges. Millions of American workers – not to mention the entire American economy – are relying on it.

Blogger's Note: This essay was written by Donald W. Snyder, President,
Lehigh Carbon Community College.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don is a great guy. Unlike Scott at NCACC who has his office lined with his own picture.