A good colleague of mine at Owens Community College in Toledo started a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #EndCCStigma. From this campaign, stories across the country have emerged that illustrate the smart choice students make attending a community college en route to employment or further education.
I recently had the privilege of hearing a gentleman share his own story. George Kalogridis worked bussing tables at the newly opened Walt Disney World Resort soon after it opened and after he graduated from high school. He quickly learned that in order to get ahead in life, he needed to pursue more education. He also knew he did not have the luxury of putting his life on hold while he pursued that dream of college. He needed a place close to home and close to his job. George found this place at his community college. He graduated first with his associate’s degree and later his bachelor’s degree. By the way, George is now the president of Walt Disney World Resort.
We may not have Walt Disney World in our backyard, but we see stories like George’s replicated time and time again at Southern State Community College — the local pharmacist who took his first organic chemistry class at Southern State only to realize that pharmacy would be a great career for this former pipefitter no longer physically able to do that job, the Ohio Senate leader who took his first college classes at Southern State, the senior in biomedical engineering at the University of Cincinnati who recently said, “I am so appreciative that I completed most of my math studies in a smaller, more personal setting rather than at a university.”
I never attended a community college. My alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, was my “community college,” in that it was affordable ($310 my first quarter) and close to home and my job. In my family, our parents were happy to encourage us to attend college by supplying a used car and the ability to live at home. The rest was up to us. I could earn enough money at my part-time job to pay my next quarter’s tuition by the time it was due. A student can still manage to do this today — at a community college.
High school graduations will soon be upon us. As families sacrifice to finance their high school graduate’s college experience, some families are realizing the smart investment of delaying that move for a year or even two. If it’s the “stigma” of “just” attending community college that hinders that decision, trade the “stigma” for two years of college credit in which you or your son or daughter don’t acquire any debt from student loans. Students might also consider those careers that only require a two-year degree or certificate, saving two years of college tuition and adding two years of wage earnings. I am no finance major, but that is a solid net gain.
Sure, a college president at your local community college can easily see and promote the smart advantages of choosing to start the college journey at Southern State. So can his two kids.
Dr. Kevin Boys is the fifth president of Southern State Community College serving in his 10th year.