Community colleges meet local needs
It has been nearly 30 years since a presidential decree designated April as National Community College Month. Commemorative events are designed to recognize institutions, occurrences or people that have precipitated or been part of significant events. When I take the time for such remembrances, no matter what the event, it typically becomes a time of reflection for me.
I’m thankful for this opportunity to reflect upon something that I have come to believe is one of the most significant and oft times “taken for granted” institutions, the nation’s community colleges. The original vision of the community college was to act as a bridge to a solution to each community’s unique needs. The term “community” in this definition is used broadly and the missions of community colleges nationally are just as broad. These “community bridges” are generally open access and relatively low cost. These bridges variously provide linkages to other four year institutions of higher learning, pathways directly to the workforce, exposure to cultural events and assistance with other community needs whether they be social, economic or educational.
Rural communities have very different needs from urban areas. Both types of communities have important voids to fill. Because I grew up in a small rural community and have continued to live in a rural area my natural bias leads me to the perspective that rural areas have fewer resources to fill those voids, which makes the rural community college a more vital resource locally. It’s really important that rural community colleges get their priorities right.
Your community college spends an immense amount of time in visioning local needs and engaging strategies to address those needs. As with all institutions, resources can sometimes become a limiting factor, which makes an accurate focus all the more important. As Indian Hills evaluates its community/regional mission, prominent needs come into sharp focus and I believe that we have aligned what resources we have to address a good share of those needs. Our 10-county region, in general, is currently on the wrong side of poverty, population, unemployment and health statistics. We have found many willing partners in our region and our political entities in addressing pieces of these issues. I am more optimistic than I have ever been about initiatives that are taking place.
Not all of the trend data has shown positive signs to date, but there are upticks in a few county populations, jobs are now more prevalent than they were a year ago and I have witnessed increased leveraging of resources through local and regional partnerships that are being formed to address these issues. Your community college is dedicated to being part of those partnerships in the best way that can serve our communities.
Please take the time this month to reflect upon those things that your community college provides and help envision future initiatives we can use to help our communities. Indian Hills is very fortunate to be situated where it is and I know personally that the employees of Indian Hills care and work every day to make our communities better places. We sincerely appreciate the support that we have had from our partners and communities in the past and moving forward. Thank You!
Jim Lindenmayer is president of Indian Hills Community College.