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Jeff Meadors: Community colleges best value in education

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

Academic preparation is a core function of community colleges. Their mission today has evolved into workforce preparation, job training and community-focused programs.

Clark Howard points out that "having a college degree will net you an average of 67 percent more money over a lifetime."

According to Occupational Outlook Quarterly, enrollment at public four-year colleges and universities roughly doubled from 1965 to 1999, while enrollment at public community colleges increased about fivefold.

And community colleges expand access for rural students. Yet while rural community colleges are the fastest-growing sector of higher education, they suffered funding cuts in 2003, 2009, 2010 and 2011, according to Steven Katsinas of the University of Alabama.

Community colleges are important to the economic development of rural areas and the USDA has statutory responsibility assigned by Congress to promote economic development in rural areas.

A college education is a 21st century mandate for most. Students must leave secondary school with quality credentials and build on them with post-secondary credentials. Many Georgia agencies provide ample guidance at the popular portal: www.gacollege411.org

From career interest inventories to SAT and ACT practice, students get a jump start by creating an account at 411 in the middle grades.

Students face tough challenges: A shrinking job market, changes to financial support, almost annual changes to HOPE and the prospect that staying home with mom and dad may be a choice after all. Some bypassed community colleges in past years and focused on a dream school. That's OK, but more and more students are finding admission to the four-year dream school harder than they imagined.

Two-year colleges are the best deal around in today's challenging economic and employment climate. Locally, Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) offers high quality faculty who focus solely on teaching and learning.

With student-to-teacher ratios smaller than most public schools, impeccable campus safety records, quality academic advisement always available, tutoring in all subject areas included in the lowest tuition rate in the state and a menu of two-year tracks from which to choose, SACS-accredited GPC is bang for the buck with high transferability of credits within the 34 four-year institutions of the University System of Georgia and to many private and out-of-state colleges.

GPC boasts vibrant student life uncharacteristic of most commuter colleges and a strong sense of interpersonal caring. And as GPC moves forward into Health Science Informatics, the range of options seems likely to expand.

Clark Howard is "heartened to see that enrollment levels at community colleges are booming off the charts. They're having to schedule classes at very odd hours -- before daybreak, late into the night and on weekends."

I'm with Clark on this one. GPC takes in more undergraduate students each fall semester, accepts more transfer students and sends more students on to other institutions than any other USG institution, accounting for more than one-third of all transfer students in the USG.

Take it from someone who has studied in U.S. and U.K. colleges; GPC is hard to beat.

Jeff Meadors represents District 1 on the Newton County Board of Education. He may be reached at Jeffrey.meadors@gmail.com.sw