There was a lot of excitement in Broken Bow this fall when I visited there to participate in ground breaking ceremonies for a new Custer County Community College Campus, which will be part of Mid Plains Community College.
Area residents are excited because those who are looking for a higher education will now be able to get it while staying closer to home.
What will spring up in the Sandhills is a campus where high school students can get a head start on college. Working men and women will be able to finish their degrees, and those already with bachelor's degrees can continue their education.
I have been a big fan of the community college system since I was Governor and signed legislation into law to assist Nebraska's community colleges in raising sufficient funds to support their student population.
As a senator my support of community colleges continues as Co-Chair of the Congressional Community College Caucus. Our mission is to raise awareness and advance policy for community colleges across the nation.
More than 1,200 community colleges nationwide educate 11.6 million students each year, representing almost half of all U.S. undergraduates. Community colleges educate more than 50 percent of new nurses.
They educate close to 80 percent of the law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians and firefighters serving communities across America.
Paving the Way to Higher Pay
Graduating students earn an estimated $400,000 more in their lifetimes than high school graduates.
In Nebraska, the Community College Association points out that those students enjoy an attractive 21 percent annual return on their investment of time and money.
The State of Nebraska benefits from a higher college graduation rate in terms of improved health and reduced welfare, unemployment and crime, saving the taxpayers some $19.1 million per year.
In October, Dr. Jill Biden, the Vice President's wife, who taught at a community college for 30 years, hit the nail on the head. She said community colleges are leading America's effort to educate our way to a better economy.
She was joined by the President as she hosted the first White House summit on community colleges that highlighted the role of community colleges in work force development.
The President has said that by 2020 the nation should graduate 5 million more men and women from community colleges. When we achieve that, the United States should once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Getting people back to work and training current workers to keep up with changes in technology is America's great challenge today and community colleges will help lead the way. They'll lead in places like Broken Bow where Nebraskans will gain specialized skills and customized training that'll prepare them for meaningful jobs and their share of the good life.