St. Louis Community College: The Region’s Higher Education Value Proposition
Since 1962, St. Louis Community College has served more than 1.2 million individuals in the region to meet a wide array of educational needs. In the most recent fiscal year, the College served approximately 62,000 credit and non-credit students in academic degree, certificate programs and short-term training, and continues to provide an incredible value to the communities it serves.
According to the American Association of Community Colleges, community colleges across the nation serve more than 12 million students annually. By their design, community colleges are local and reflect the needs of the community in which they reside. Nearly every congressional district in the United States has a community college. The students who attend are the most diverse within the higher education sector, and many are the first of their family to attend college.
So what is the primary role of a community college? Although the name may seem unclear or vague to some, the mission of the community college is – in reality – very clear and is one of the pillars of this country’s educational system. Community colleges focus on three areas: 1) workforce education and training degrees and certificates, 2) liberal arts degrees or certificates designed for student transfer to four year universities and 3) continuing education and customized training. Community colleges provide an incredible value as they have very low tuition given that most have the support of a local and state tax base. For example, STLCC’s current in-district tuition and fees are less than $110 per credit hour.
A closer examination of each of piece of the community college mission in St. Louis reveals the needs being addressed:
Workforce Education and Training. Recently, the St. Louis Business Journal reported that officials from Amazon told community leaders that the lack of a “blueprint for talent” was one of the reasons the e-commerce giant did not choose the St. Louis region as the location for its second headquarters. For St. Louis to compete for such projects in the future, it will have to develop a stronger base of workers ready for the kind of jobs required for major tech companies.
For the state, the National Skills Coalition reports that middle skills jobs, or jobs that require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree, will increase to 53 percent of all job openings by 2020 in Missouri. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce further reports there are still 30 million good jobs in the nation that do not require a bachelor’s degree. These good jobs pay an average of $55,000 per year, and exist in the skilled services industries such as healthcare, finance and information technology.
As an example of how STLCC is responding to critical workforce shortages, the College just broke ground on the new Center for Nursing and Health Sciences at the Forest Park campus to meet the demands of high job needs in the health sciences sector.
For a strong St. Louis workforce and economy, a viable community college is absolutely critical! To realize economic prosperity, it will be necessary to build out a talent pool that will assist in attracting new industry and retaining existing companies.
Transfer Degrees. For those students interested in obtaining a four-year degree, STLCC should be their first choice. Recently, the College teamed up with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and other colleges and universities to develop the 42-hour general education transfer core. All courses within this core are guaranteed to transfer to any two- or four-year public institution of higher education in Missouri. Given the generous Missouri A+ Scholarships offered by the state, or via Pell Grants, thousands of St. Louisans have completed transfer degrees at STLCC with little or no cost. This strategy is a great one for any student, and is of tremendous value to the student and their family as it reduces the student debt issue so prevalent today in our nation.
Just this month, the article “Middle-Class Families Increasingly Look to Community Colleges” written by Kyle Spencer of the New York Times, describes how families are choosing community colleges for the first two years over the traditional four-year route to spend less for a quality education.
With some universities now priced in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the value proposition of transferring from a community college becomes increasingly clear.
Continuing Education and Customized Training. The College offers hundreds of continuing education courses each year for the citizens of the region. From professional development opportunities such as small business essentials, drones, healthcare occupations and restaurant management to personal enrichment courses such as publishing and media technologies, social media and web development, the College offers a comprehensive variety of non-credit courses that provide professional and personal benefit for thousands of people in our communities.
In addition, the College is a strong partner with business and industry in offering customized training in a range of workforce sectors. One example of this effort is the Boeing pre-employment training program offered at the Center for Workforce Innovation in North County.
St. Louis Community College is the first choice for academic excellence, leading the way in student success, innovation and community transformation. The College offers a tremendous value proposition to individuals, employers and the community at large. I encourage you to visit one of our campuses very soon!
Jeff L. Pittman, Ph.D.