The importance of community colleges has been at the forefront of the news recently. This topic is not new to you and me; we come here every day because of our enthusiasm for learning, our commitment to educational opportunity and our passion for our students. But in these times of shrinking budgets, demands for completion and students in need of even more services from educational institutions, it’s time we remind ourselves (and the public at large) about the significance of our work.
Just last week, Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of Three Rivers College and chair-elect of the Missouri Community College Association (MCCA) and Dr. Craig Larson, chair of St. Louis Community College’s Board of Trustees and chair-elect of MCCA’s board of directors, testified before the Missouri House of Representatives’ Higher Education Committee on the importance of community colleges and the need for increased funding.
This testimony is not new – community college leaders are often called upon to give an update on our work and progress. What is important is that this news is vital now. Budgets are being considered and we are still (more than ever) needed in our communities. Some highlights from the testimony include:
- With over 100,000 students statewide, community colleges represent over 40 percent of the higher education enrollment for the state, with 95 percent of our students staying in Missouri and contributing to their local economies.
- 48 percent of all students who complete a bachelor’s degree have taken at least one community college class.
- This news hits home: 15 percent of Missouri state representatives and 20 percent of Missouri state senators are community college alumni.
STLCC Interim Chancellor Dr. Dennis Michaelis was in the news this week as well – he chatted with Don Marsh on St. Louis Public Radio’s (KWMU) “St. Louis on the Air” about the importance of community colleges. Dr. Michaelis was joined by Southwestern Illinois College president Dr. Georgia Costello. Among other things, Dr. Michaelis and Dr. Costello discussed college funding, affordability ($98 per credit hour for STLCC, $108 per credit hour for SWIC), partnerships with businesses, workforce preparedness and enrollment.
Their discussion ties in with information Dr. Joe Worth put together earlier in the week. As you think about what we do, also take the follow into consideration:
- This spring, 62.3 percent of Florissant Valley students sought aid through PELL, A+ or Direct Loan (scholarships were not included here). This number represents the highest percentage in the District. The STLCC District percentage was 52.2 percent. Forest Park was 61.3 percent.
- In the fall fact sheet distributed by IRP, Florissant Valley was listed as having a 65 percent African American student population. Roughly 70 percent overall minority when other classifications are included, again highest in the STLCC district (Forest Park: 53 percent African American, roughly 66 percent including all other classifications).
- Florissant Valley has the highest campus developmental need in the district at 88 percent.
- Florissant Valley is tied w/ Forest Park for highest percentage of GPAs below 2.0.
I could go on and on with percentages, lists, facts and figures, but all the information listed above spells out the need for funding support and more elbow grease. Not that we haven’t been pulling our weight – - community colleges have historically partnered with businesses and communities to prepare students for their prospective career and life paths. Think about the student experiences we coordinate through clinicals, practicums and internship experiences. Think about our students and the positions they hold today because of their St. Louis Community College education. Our graduates are represented in companies and organizations throughout the St. Louis area.
But what it really boils down to is what can we do day in and day out to prepare and enhance our student’s experience on campus. We’ll need to continue to be proactive as a campus in addressing the challenges before us. Please take every opportunity to support the Academic Early Warning and A+ warning notices managed by our Counseling Department. Also consider what opportunities exist within your own unit to innovate greater forms of outreach, intervention or support for our students. Here are examples of campus interventions:
- Academic Support Center (ongoing)
- Academic Early Warning (3-6 weeks)
- A+ intervention letters (mid-terms)
- Resume doctor (ongoing)
- Student Success oriented Lunch-n-Learns (ongoing)
- New Student Registration Workshop (ongoing)
- New Student Orientation (revised)
- Smart Start course maps (ongoing)
- Student Support Services
- Student Outreach and Registration or S.O.A.R (ongoing)
- Probationary Student Outreach/Registration (ongoing)
In these challenging times, it’s also important to have open forums to discuss ideas, plans and problem areas. To that end, Dr. Michaelis will take part in a Florissant Valley open forum from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, in TC 202-204. Dr. Michaelis does not have a formal presentation; he is anxious to hear questions and comments from the campus community. I hope you can join us.
AROUND THE CAMPUS
- The FV Engineering department is hosting the 7th Annual Greater St. Louis Project Lead the Way Competition today. The competition, which focuses on the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum, will include multiple Olympic-style events that will challenge students’ creativity and engineering skills. Students will be judged on teamwork, video and presentation. PLTW is a national non-profit organization that helps pre-college students gain knowledge to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
- Please note that the 2014 African-American Heritage Kick-Off Celebration in honor of Black History Month will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, in the Student Center Multipurpose Room. Everyone is invited to participate in the celebration and enjoy a taste of soul food. Volunteers are needed! Please contact Myrtle Alexander or stop by the Campus Life Office.
- “reasons to be pretty” makes its debut at the Terry M. Fischer Theatre next Friday. Mark your calendars and try to come out to see the show on these dates and times: 8 p.m. Feb. 14, 15, 21,* 22 and 2 p.m. Feb. 16 (*sign interpreted). Please know that only patrons over the age of 16 will be welcome to this production due to adult language.
AROUND THE REGION
- LaRhonda Wilson (Anthropology and Sociology) will participate in a panel discussion on black women and the media. “Invisible No More” will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9 at the Missouri History Museum, located at Lindell and DeBaliviere in Forest Park.
- Elizabeth Cash was awarded a certificate of completion for the Global Citizen program (GCP). The GCP is designed to provide students with an understanding of the issues shaping the contemporary world, and to develop their international and intercultural competencies. The program was created at Florissant Valley in 2010. Cash is the third student to graduate from this program. Read the full article on STLCC Now.
Earlier this week, I was hoping for a snow day and well, I got my wish. But honestly, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil says, I think I’m ready for spring! Keep warm and enjoy your weekend.