The article states that employers are “unimpressed with the quality of community college students.”
Here in the Upstate, that’s certainly not a reality. The licensure pass rate for our students entering professions including nursing, dental hygiene, surgical technology, and more is 93.8%, consistently at or near the top of the list in a comparison of South Carolina colleges and universities. Our graduate placement rate is 86.6%, showing that students are preparing for the area’s highest growth fields and readily finding jobs in them.
I talk to employers every day, and I can tell you without hesitation that they are extremely pleased with the quality of our graduates. In fact, these graduates are the reason so many of them are growing. In Greenville County alone, our students and graduates are generating close to $400 million a year in today’s dollars, according to a 2015 study. This figure represents higher wages earned, increased output of the businesses that employ them, and the money students and employers spend at other community businesses.
Harvard University recently selected two of our employees as data fellows because of the excellent work we do on portfolio program analysis and estimating the return on investment for each program we offer. We continue to grow programs that result in high-wage jobs for our students and high satisfaction rates from those who employ them.
The West Coast student who dropped out in frustration complained of having to take a number and run from office to office to get enrolled. We have taken the opposite approach to enrollment at Greenville Tech, creating the one-stop Dreisbach/Anderson Student Success Center, where the enrolling student is seated in a comfortable “conversation room,” and the student support staff members needed to complete the process are rotated to the student. This change in our enrollment process, implemented several years ago, demonstrates a commitment to putting students’ needs first.
The article also cites “scant advising,” again not something a student experiences at GTC. We take an innovative approach to advising, using a model that focuses on building a positive relationship between the student and the adviser. This model allows the adviser to discover a student’s strengths and aspirations, using them as a foundation for individual academic planning.
As a result, the student feels motivated and engaged in the advising process and committed to academic goals. We also implement early alerts and degree maps that allow us to see that students are tracking to on-time degree completion, and if they’re not, we are able to implement interventions that get them back on a path to success.
Completion rates are mentioned in the article, and while it’s true that two-year college students have poorer completion rates than many students at four-year colleges and universities, there are reasons for that. Our students have families, jobs, and responsibilities that can cause them to stop out for a semester or two when they’re overwhelmed, or to drop out altogether.
Approximately half of them are experiencing food or housing insecurity. They do an amazing job of juggling, and we do everything we can to support them from the day they enroll until the day they finish, with resources including an on-campus food pantry, emergency funds when they hit a roadblock, and Student Assistance and Resources Center that connects students with the help they need.
I do agree with one point made in the article: It states that a number of community colleges do extraordinarily well. This is one of those colleges.
We are grateful to the many community partners that help us make this happen – from Greenville County Schools to local industry, generous donors, and supportive elected officials. There is no gloom or doom here — rather a boom in enrollment, a healthy increase in success rates, and resulting growth among employers ensure strength in our local economy.
Dr. Keith Miller is the president of Greenville Technical College.