Community college is logical choice

Published 1:49 am Wednesday, April 3, 2019


This time of year, young adults are celebrating the completion of high school requirements and preparing for graduation while facing the realities of their next step in life. Should it be a postsecondary education path or enter the workforce?

With April being National Community College Month, now is a good time to reflect on the many ways community colleges can impact lives.

According to the Census Bureau, those holding an associate degree earn about $400,000 more in a lifetime than those with a high school diploma. Associate degrees generally require 60 semester credits of study, which equals to about 20 college courses. LBW Community College, one of 24 community and technical colleges in the Alabama Community College System, offers associate degrees in art, science, and applied science.

Now more than ever, a college credential is important in obtaining a job and increasing earning potential. A Georgetown University report on job growth and education requirements estimates 65 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education or training beyond high school in 2020.

A key investment in the future is obtaining a college credential. Whether the choice is an academic transfer path or career technical training, community colleges offer the best cost option with tuition often less than half the amount of four-year institutions.

Through a community college, academic transfer programs allow students to complete the first two years of courses toward a major before transferring to complete a bachelor’s degree. Academic courses are taught by faculty with the same required credentials as those teaching at four-year institutions. Now, more than 80 percent of LBWCC’s academic classes are offered online, so coursework can be completed from anywhere with computer access.

Throughout the community, LBWCC graduates are among the most successful business leaders and professionals in their fields.

As technology advances, industries evolve and requirements for advanced skills increase. In addition to computer-related skills, employers now seek cognitive skills such as communication and analytics from job applicants rather than physical skills traditionally associated with manufacturing. In LBWCC’s career technical training programs, faculty have field experience and students benefit from hands-on learning.

High school students can begin dual enrollment, earning both high school and college credits, beginning the fall of their sophomore year. This results in getting a major head start on their academic college credits before transferring to a four-year university, or being trained in one of several career technical programs and gaining the skills needed to enter the workforce earlier. Currently, those choosing technical dual enrollment options may qualify for financial assistance through state-funded grants.

Community colleges also provide free adult education and literacy services to students seeking to improve their academic and life skills. Adult education services include academic assessment, adult basic education, college preparation, English as a second language, GED preparation, Career Pathways, and WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate. LBWCC offers adult education in Andalusia, Opp, Florala, Luverne, and Greenville.

For existing business and industry, LBWCC provides customized training for employees through the workforce development division.

Several short-term skills training programs became available for the first time this year through LBWCC. These programs, which are non-credit training courses supported by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds, included industrial welding, medical assistant, veterinary assistant, dental assistant, and pharmacy technician. Planning is underway for repeat or additional programs such as these, which can be completed in two, three, or four months.

LBWCC also offers a variety of community or special interest courses. Recent successful courses included photography, foraging for mushrooms, cake and cookie decorating, beginning computer, survivor basics, Aikido, basic welding for farm or home, calligraphy, and sign language.

“Community” is truly the spirit of LBWCC, where student success is the most important element in all our efforts. Since 1965, we continue to serve the higher education needs of our communities. Our graduates are the skilled workers in business and industry throughout the five-county service area of Covington, Coffee, Crenshaw, Butler and Geneva counties.

We encourage you to visit the campus nearest you. Call 334-881-2282 to schedule a tour or to learn more about how we can help you get to the next level.

Dr.  Herb Riedel is president of LBW Community College.