Why Community College Still Matters by Nina Serna

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Why Community College Still Matters by Nina Serna

Since the pandemic hit last spring, many students were sent home from their four-year universities or decided to defer going to a university until the pandemic was more controlled.Covid has reminded a lot of people about what a good opportunity community college can provide. Because of Covid, some high school graduates have decided to attend online classes at community colleges rather than pay top dollar for a four-year university that they can’t even visit in person. No matter what stage of life someone is in, community college can offer something valuable to everyone. Whether it’s a career change, preparation for a four-year university, just for fun and enrichment, or a specific degree, community college provides good education to a variety of people at avery affordable price.

The reason that Tri-C is valuable to such a wide variety of people is because of how accessible it is. Felisa Eafford, Tri-C’s Eastern Campus Dean, recognizes how important of a factor open access is at Tri-C. “You just can’t go toany college and enroll, and participate in the same typeof programs that community colleges have. It’s about access. That’s why community colleges were founded, and that continues to be our greatest mission.” Dr. Eafford says

The students at Tri-C feel the same way. They are grateful to be with a community college that is so affordable, accessible, and valuable. Halle Slaughter, a first-year Tri-C student, says that she enjoys community college so far, and Tri-C has been a part of making her life better. “Tri-Cis very affordable compared to a four-year university! It’s made it possible for me to attend. I have an 8-month-old son and don’t think I could afford to go to a four-year college while taking care of him right now.” Halle says. After Tri-C, Halle also plans on attending a four-year university to get her BSN. She says “Tri-C has definitely been a helpful experience. Instead of walking into a four-year university anxious and not so confident, I will be walking in with knowledge on how college works and what’s expected of me! I will understand basic college concepts and be confident in my success!”

Faith, another first-year Tri-C student is also taking advantage of how available, convenient, and low-cost community college is. She is enrolled in thePlant Science and Landscape Technology program. Faith says “The best thing about community college is being close to home and the reduced costs of getting an education.” “It [community college] can also teach you things like time management, organizational skills, and stress management, and I think all of those skills are valuable to have.

Those are the experiences of a couple of younger Tri-C students, but Tri-C is open for people of any age. Terri Zakraysek is a student who is taking Tri-C classes to enhance her skills for work.“I am so glad that I have the opportunity to take classes at a community college. At my age (I’m55), I am not looking to start a new career, but rather, enhance the one I already have. As my jobs have changed, I wanted to be able to grow inside those jobs. I get to learn new skills and new programs that keep me engaged, and my company benefits from my new knowledge as I use what I have learned at work,” says Zakraysek. Community college has very different purposes than a traditional university, from the wide variety of classes and class times to the atmosphere as a whole, therefore it is impossible to compare them. They have different purposes and different ways of doing things. Terri Zakraysek says, “I love that Tri-C (and most community colleges) offer programs and fields of interest that are very diverse. Nursing, graphic design, manufacturing, and more–one can take any number of courses to figure out what interests them the most. One can get either an associate degree at community college or get into a certificate program, both of which give people the ability to master new skills.”

It is not just the students that are aware of this of course. Chris Dorsten, the Executive Director of Enrollment Operations and College Registrar, says “Community Colleges offer courses around students schedules and we have the ability to provide unbelievable services like tutoring, hands-on experiences, and small class sizes. In my opinion, these equate to the best education students receive.”He also says that “one of the best values of a community college education is the dedication from faculty and staff. The College continues to look for ways to assist students and provide them an unparalleled educational experience.”

Felisa Eafford went onto say that “at a community college, one of our missions and how we’re founded was to provide workforce training. Who is going to train your plumbers, your truck drivers, and things of that nature? It’s not going to be a research institution because it’s not its mission. But that is the mission of a community college. A community college is focused on the needs of the community and how can we train field workers, how can students get a foundation so they can transfer to a college university, and in doing so, remediating them. The best thing that a community college does is follow its mission, which is open access.

Both staff and students alike love the opportunities that community colleges like Tri-C provide.Community college matters just as much, if not more, than ever before. During this pandemic, Tri-C students are still able to attend classes virtually and at a very low cost. We can see very clearly that Cuyahoga Community College is not only a college where futures begin, but where lives are changed.

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