Community colleges poised to play even bigger role in nation

Monday, August 22, 2016

McCook's junior college is celebrating its 90th year next week and there's plenty to celebrate, but the college has plenty to look forward to, as well.

The Mid-Plains board of governors are expected to approve the purchase of four small homes in eastern McCook this week to be used for student housing, and to approve more bids for work associated with construction of an extended campus location in Valentine.

The houses, built by developer Joe Giorgioni, are between the Knights of Columbus Hall and Felling Field on the 900 block of East D.

They have been used for housing for students in the college's EMT program, just they type of program at which community colleges excel.

In fact, community colleges, too often seen as "safety schools" for students who couldn't make it directly to four-year institutions, are poised to play an even bigger role in the nation's secondary educational landscape. During this presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders struck a chord with millennials by calling for "free" college education, Hillary Clinton is emphasizing workforce skills and job training, and Donald Trump is calling for increased funding for job training and placement as well.

The Mid-Plains ranks in the top third of U.S. community colleges overall, according to a new WalletHub survey, but in the bottom third when it comes to "Career Outcomes" rankings, which certainly leaves room for growth.

Mid-Plains seems to be on the right track with vocational training, and, thanks to the donation of the former Elks building, new possibilities in McCook.

We don't tend to think of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture as a community college, but judging from the WalletHub rankings, which place it ninth in the nation, the rest of the state's and nation's community colleges could take some tips from NCTA. That's especially true when it comes to job placement, where NCTA places fourth in the nation.

Community colleges are overcoming stereotypes, according to WalletHub, by offering better schedule flexibility, smaller class sizes and comparatively rigorous coursework, including bachelor's degree programs at a fraction of the university cost.

"First-time college entrants find those qualities most appealing -- as do university students transferring to community colleges, an emerging trend that reverses the traditional path of 'upgrading' from a two-year to a four-year institution," said WalletHub.

How do our Nebraska community colleges stack up against the other 814 in the country?

Pretty well, actually.


Check out the complete WalletHub report here.

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