A couple of weeks ago, in response to President Barack Obama’s proposal for free community college for striving students, Tom Hanks wrote a New York Times op-ed about his two years at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif.: I Owe It All to Community College.
Hanks credits his community college with offering him an open door when other institutions were unaffordable. He was able to take the courses and develop the skills he needed to succeed in his chosen career. These are the elements of a successful higher-education experience — and they are what community colleges nationwide strive to offer to every student who walks through their doors.
Community colleges promote educational success for all students — and we believe that the 21st Century Initiative recommendations for community college reform are essential to strengthening the environment of support and opportunity that Hanks commended.
“I couldn’t afford tuition for college.” — Tom Hanks
We believe that a community college education should be affordable for every student. By advocating for better funding policies at the local, state and national levels, community colleges can help ensure that every student has access to the educational opportunities they need to fulfill their potential.
“I was an underachieving student with lousy SAT scores.” — Tom Hanks
An enriching higher-education experience is more likely when students arrive prepared for college-level academics. By partnering with local K-12 schools and providing college transition support, such as advising and test preparation, institutions can improve the college readiness of students in their districts.
For students who haven’t had access to quality college prep, community colleges can pair developmental education programs with embedded supports, such as mandatory tutoring, to ensure students are ready as quickly as possible for their first year in higher education.
“Courses in physics, stenography, auto mechanics, certified public accounting — name the art or science, the subject or trade, and it was probably in the catalog.” — Tom Hanks
Community colleges should provide students with a clear pathway to careers in which they can expect a living wage and achieve economic security for themselves and their families. Especially in today’s economy, where there is a significant gap between the skills students are learning and the demands of the workforce, community colleges have a responsibility to focus on educating and training students for available — and future — jobs. By building local, regional and national partnerships with employers, community colleges create career training that matches local industry needs and prepares students to fill jobs that deliver on the American Dream.
Tom Hanks’ op-ed is a testament to the lifelong value of a community college education — and it is a call-to-action to community colleges to maintain that value. We hope that today’s community college students will someday drive by their community college and, as Tom Hanks did, sum up their time there by stating, “That place made me what I am today.”
What did you think of Hanks’ op-ed? Tell us in the Comments.