Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Significance of Community Colleges in Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Today, the Community College of Vermont is participating in Blog Action Day 2008. This annual nonprofit event aims to unite people around the world on one issue on the same day. This year's topic is poverty. Messages from several members of the CCV community will be posted here throughout the day. The following post is submitted by Pam Chisholm, CCV’s Director of Financial Aid.

What role do community colleges have in helping break the cycle of poverty? A huge one. Always has been, always will be, and it is perhaps even more important now with our economic issues and the disparity between income levels.

Community colleges are access institutions. We welcome students for whom other colleges’ doors won’t open. The majority of our students are first generation college students (first in their family to go to college) and who come from low income backgrounds. Many do not come to us right out of high school, but start later when the economic realities of working two or three minimum wage jobs hit home. They come to us hesitantly, not sure they know all the hidden rules of higher education, not sure how to pay for it, but somehow knowing they need that piece of paper to break the cycle of poverty.

I work at a community college where we enroll approximately 8000 students a year at twelve sites across our small, primarily rural state. They stop in, they stop out, but many ultimately graduate. We hold our commencement ceremonies in the spring at a central location in the state, with about 500 graduates...and 4000 people attend, because our students bring every family member and friend who supported them for however long it took to earn their associate degrees. It is a true celebration of hard work, sacrifice, accomplishment and new beginnings.

And it is why we do what we do. And we can’t forget that, even as more middle income and college ready students start enrolling at our institutions because of our lower costs. There’s room for everyone at the community college table; we just need to make sure we save the head of the table for those from poverty.

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