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Waubonsee Students, Faculty Meet, Talk Issues with Deputy Asst. U.S. Secretary for Community Colleges Mitsui

Mark Mitsui, Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary for Community Colleges, and Waubonsee President Dr. Christine Sobek chat with students during a Q&A Oct. 20.

What defines a traditional college student?

As Mark Mitsui, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges for the U.S. Department of Education, sees it, the answer to that question has changed substantially in recent years – and community colleges have played a large role in that transition, serving as an educational launch pad for the hopes and dreams of many students who are parents, likely have work off-campus, may be veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, or may even be the first in their family to ever attend college.

Recently, Mitsui visited Waubonsee Community College to meet with the college’s students, faculty and administrators, to hear their stories, learn of their triumphs and challenges, and take that information back to Washington, D.C.

During his visit, Mitsui conducted a one-hour Q&A session in a lecture hall packed with dozens of Waubonsee students.

Mitsui, who most recently served as president of North Seattle Community College in Seattle, Wash., said in the approximately one year he has served in his current role in the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, he has met with delegations from multiple foreign governments who wish to replicate the U.S.’s community college system in their countries.

“Community colleges produce the people who help to make this country run,” Mitsui said.

Mitsui fielded a range of questions, including those on such topics as college affordability, maintaining state funding for community colleges, and how to maximize a community college experience.

Mitsui noted changes to financial assistance rules, essentially capping interest rates on student loans and creating more flexibility for those repaying loans.

He said the federal government is working with states to encourage the states to continue investing in their community college systems.

And Mitsui, together with Waubonsee President Dr. Christine Sobek, encouraged students to take advantage of the benefits Waubonsee and other community colleges offer, which include strong connections to local employers and other key resources.

“No matter what industry you want to go into, your instructors probably have those connections to the people in your industry, who already do what you want to do,” Mitsui said. “Get to know them. Take advantage of that while you are here.”