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Jeff Meadors: Two-year colleges hold great promise for student success

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

The purchasing power of the U.S. dollar has declined every quarter since 2009. The Purchasing Manager's Index fell by 2 points from April to May, a significant decline. Home Depot mogul Bernie Marcus proclaims to college students there are simply no jobs. And in an administration that has systematically attacked American business and the entrepreneurial spirit as Bill Clinton goes dramatically off-message in praise of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital success, college graduates face an ominous road ahead.

America is in the longest economic slump following a recession since the Great Depression as Americans age 18 to 24 run high risk of being the first generation to fare more poorly than their parents. The unemployment rate for 18- to 24-year-olds staggers and college graduates in increasing numbers move back home jobless and disillusioned by the purple haze of their 2008 voting record.

In this climate, community colleges and technical schools boast some of the most authentic and relevant college and career tracks with terminal credentials. For decades, WSB consumer action giant Clark Howard has encouraged young people to think "community college."

With low tuition, high-quality faculty, quality academic advisement, authentic pathways to high interest careers and a focus on instruction these institutions hold promise for students, many of whom work two jobs while interning and studying for exams.

Students leave these institutions with certificates, credentials and diplomas that matter, enjoy opportunities for community engagement and service and move more seamlessly to the head of the hiring line when search committees and hiring teams take a look at their credentials, work ethic and community service.

And many can begin early. House Bill 400, also called the Bridge Act, requires career exploration as early as grade 5. House Bill 149 created the Move on When Ready Act to allow eligible high school students to earn 1.0 Carnegie Unit per 3 semester hour college course. House Bill 186 put teeth in legal initiatives for secondary and post-secondary institutions to work together and House Bill 326 rewrote the funding mechanism in favor of high school students in early college programs.

In short, eligible students can join the fast track to the two-year terminal degree, with some graduating with A.A. and A.S. degrees two weeks prior to high school graduation, with guaranteed state funding for tuition, not fees or books. Commonly, these students are active in their communities, enroll in AP courses at their high schools, take early college courses at two-year colleges and participate in Work Based Learning, Youth Apprenticeship Programs and Communities in Schools where available.

For students eager to leap ahead of the pack to pile on credentials in an increasingly tough economy of triple-digit DOW declines, these programs lend a jump start. Students should explore www.gacollege411.org for career inventories, test preparation and college tips.

Jeff Meadors represents District 1 on the Newton County Board of Education. Email him at Jeffrey.meadors@gmail.com.