As we begin the spring semester, I write to welcome each of you to the Community College of Baltimore County. While all of us are now engaged in the more mundane work of teaching and learning, the highly charged political season around us is filled with the excitement of new leadership in the Governor’s Office and many new delegates and senators at the state and federal levels. Add to that the buzz from President Obama’s heady proposal to give all Americans the right to a free and universal K-14 education, and you have a platform for discussion that excites every community college professional in the land.
The President’s proposal, in brief, would make two years of community college education free to all responsible full and part-time students who hold a 2.5GPA or better and who commit to doing 8 hours of community service a week. Although a funding model for such commitment is not yet clear, we at CCBC are excited by the fact that our sector is now at the heart of a nationwide conversation.
Many critics, of course, have labeled the proposal as DOA. However, whether or not the President’s grand idea ever comes to fruition, the mere mention of it has done a great deal to elevate both the visibility and the important role the community colleges play in ensuring the economic and social well-being of communities all across the country. Each year 12 million Americans enroll in courses at community colleges, setting their sights on earning a degree, a certificate, some type of workplace certification, or transfer to a four year institution. And each year, on a local level, 67,000 students come to CCBC each year to achieve some form of completion goal.
No matter one’s politics, it is hard to argue against an initiative designed to support students at institutions that serve as the gateway to opportunity to so many, particularly minorities and low to middle income Americans. And when 96% of community college graduates – most of you that is – remain to live in our local communities, few other higher education institutions can claim to make such an extraordinary contribution to the well-being of our communities. Our graduates get jobs, buy houses, pay taxes, send their children to local schools, join the PTA, and serve on community boards.
I want to assure you that you could not have made a better choice than to decide to attend CCBC. Your community college is the largest in the state; offers over 100 associate degree and hundreds of certificate options; delivers instruction in state of the art classrooms and laboratories supported by an excellent cadre of Master’s prepared faculty. The price is right; the product unmatchable. We often say, “Come to us for 2 years and pay $3,500 a year, and then go anywhere you want and pay $30,000, $40,000, or $50,000 to finish a Bachelor’s Degree”.
A program of “Two years of college as free and universal in America as high school is today” could right size a new educational model for America for the 21st century. This could be good for individuals; good for families; good for communities; good for the business; and good for the country! After all, 12 million Americans can’t be wrong!
I extend best wishes to all of you for a strong semester start!
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