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The Importance of Community Colleges

The turn of the page on the calendar brings with it a turning of the page in the academic year. Many college students are returning to classes for the second term of the year while others are starting classes for the first time. Each student begins college at different times and with unique circumstances. Those circumstances are part of what makes the college experience valuable for all of us.

An op-ed column in the New York Times last August describes college students today: 40 percent of students work at a job more than 30 hours a week, about 25 percent work full-time while going to school full-time, about 25 percent are older than 25 and the same percentage are single parents. Furthermore, more than 40 percent of the country’s nearly 18 million undergraduate students attend community colleges.

These students understand the importance of education and work hard to achieve their goals. The obstacles many students face on their path to graduation are tremendous, but they continue to work through them.

At Waubonsee, we recognize the commitment that our students are making and we work just as hard to provide them the tools and resources they need to succeed. With programs like Upward Bound, TRIO/Student Support Services, Connect4Success, the Dunham Quick Path accecelerated degree program, and many scholarship opportunities, we strive to remove barriers to learning.

In January 2011 I wrote about Trish Dixon-Kunkle, then a student at Waubonsee. As a single mother, her path to a college degree was filled with challenges. However, her personal determination paired with scholarships from the Waubonsee Foundation enabled Trish to earn an Associate in Science degree in May of that year and she went on to earn a B.A. in Social Science from Benedictine University in 2013. She is an ideal example of the power of connecting tenacity with opportunity and resources.

Others are recognizing the tremendous diversity and potential of community college students. Last year, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, announced that Apple had developed a curriculum to be used in community colleges to teach students how to write code for mobile apps. At the announcement Cook said that the decision to offer the curriculum to community colleges was intentional because “… as it turns out, the community college system is much more diverse than the four-year schools….”

I encourage everyone to explore the assistance options available. There is still time to apply for scholarships through the Waubonsee Foundation for the 2018-2019 school year. The deadline is Feb. 5. You may be surprised by what is available to you.

I admire those who work to better themselves, their families, and their communities by getting an education. I encourage others to add their story to our diverse learning community by enrolling in classes. I know that college can be hard and I recognize the challenges faced by many of our students. Know that at Waubonsee we are working to help every student succeed.

Christine J. Sobek, Ed.D.

President, Waubonsee Community College