Across the United States, community colleges must consider our responsibilities to students and to the future of our communities. In April, the American Association of Community Colleges released the report resulting from several years of work by committees representing all states.
Scott Ralls, president of the North Carolina Community Colleges system, served on one of the committees. The report — Reclaiming the American Dream: A report from the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges — is available on the American Association of Community Colleges’ website at www.aacc21stcenturycenter.org. The report warns that “the American Dream is imperiled” because median income has declined since 2000 by 7 percent and too many people are low income or in poverty. Also, for the first time in U. S. history, the younger generation is tending to be less educated than their elders. The report notes that “the connection between education and American prosperity is direct and powerful.”
We still are a strong and wealthy nation in comparison with others, and we have the means to improve the situation. Community colleges are challenged to increase the graduation rates across the country so that citizens will be prepared for the workforce going into the future. Community colleges need to be designed for the times. We must connect the students to services and academics which prepare them for the job market and for lifelong education.
Robeson Community College is responding to the research. We focus on success as well as access, provide a variety of educational pathways, collaborate with businesses and other institutions, work with students towards their success, and focus on learning. New programs this year include Welding, Emergency Medical Science, and Medical Assisting. There are new opportunities to get credits in health care fields through our BOOST grant program. This summer, faculty are running an advising center in the Williams Student Center to ensure that returning students can get academic advising when they need it. And all faculty members are preparing exciting lessons, experiments, field experiences, and technology projects for students.
The college encourages people to come to the college to join in on these efforts and learn about our new programs and services that can help them take advantage of life’s opportunities. There have been some changes in loan availability and the federal rules for Pell Grants. However, the majority of our students still are able to qualify for some benefits of Pell Grants. We also gave out more than $80,000 in scholarships last year. Anyone who wants to learn and prepare for better work can succeed at Robeson Community College. New students can register at our website at www.robeson.edu for a New Student Orientation. At orientation, friendly experts will explain the services and programs, share displays of student clubs, and provide tours of the campus.
Dr. Pamela Hilbert is president of Robeson Community College.