Community colleges: a critical link for community success

Community Colleges are a critical connection between the success of individual students, employers and the communities they share.  That’s the message splashed across Sunday’s edition of the Richmond Times Dispatch op/ed page.

Marshall Smith, the president of John Tyler Community College published a piece about his college’s workforce training programs.  It’s an interesting read, especially if you aren’t up to speed on how community colleges are connecting young people, who don’t know what they want to do, and employers seeking qualified people to hire for good-paying jobs.

Many high school students, parents, and counselors are simply unaware of the lucrative careers available to those who pursue two-year degrees in fields as diverse as mechanical engineering, information technology, and funeral services.

In a conversation between RTD editors and Eugene Trani, president of Virginia Commonwealth University and Gary Rhodes, president of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, that essential link between higher education access and community success was further explored.

President Trani identified community college transfer students as an important piece of that access puzzle.

Trani: Our community-college transfer students who enroll with more than 30 hours from the community college do as well as our native, first-time freshman in terms of retention rates. We love the community colleges. I think that is a good on-ramp.

Rhodes: Let me piggy back on something that President Trani said about the partnership between VCU and Reynolds. The phrase he used was “on-ramp.” The community college mission has 3 parts: (1) its transfer to 4-year colleges and universities; (2) it’s career programs — we have about 80 programs, whether you want to be a nurse, an automotive technician, or work in electronics; and (3) the third part is work-force development.

You can read the longer conversation by clicking on this link.

For more information on how Virginia’s Community Colleges are serving the three missions Rhodes identified, visit our website.

Posted by Jeff Kraus

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