Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 12 : Spring 2012 - Page 74

Celebrating Community College Month pson t Nicole Thom work. completes lab Electrical studen Eric Li listens to his instructor in accounting clas s. nya ing student Ta Medical assist “patient.” her Clark assesses Dave Raymon d teaches his history class. April is Community College Month, and what better time to help spread the word about what is happening nationally as well as right here in Aroostook County’s own community college. Community colleges are a vital part of the postsecondary education delivery system. They serve almost half of the undergraduate students in the United States, providing open access to postsecondary education, preparing students for transfer to 4-year institutions, providing workforce development and skills training, and offering a wide range of noncredit programs. Globalization is driving changes in our economy, and the need for an educated workforce has never been greater. The majority of new jobs that will be created by 2014 will require some postsecondary education. Without community colleges, millions of students and adult learners would not be able to access the education they need to be prepared for further education or the workplace. Community colleges often are the access point for education in a town and a real catalyst for economic development. In Maine, that role is filled by the seven higher education institutions that comprise the Maine Community College System: Central Maine Community College in Auburn; Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor; Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield; Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle, Southern Maine Community College in South Portland and Brunswick; Washington County Community College in Calais, and York County Community College in Wells. Collectively, these colleges offer nearly 300 associate degree, certificate and diploma options. More than 18,500 students were enrolled in Maine’s community colleges in the fall of 2011. The MCCS is one of the fastest growing community college systems in the nation. Enrollment has increased 83 percent in just nine years. More students than ever are starting their education at one of Maine’s community colleges and then transferring to a 4-year institution. During the 2010/2011 academic year, 916 MCCS students trans- ferred on the University of Maine System. They joined hundreds of other recent MCCS alumni who are working toward degrees at over 163 colleges in 40 states. In addition, the colleges in the MCCS offer customized training and non-credit course offerings. When adding those individuals to the mix, the MCCS serves over 28,000 people annually, the vast majority of whom are Maine residents. In Aroostook County, NMCC had 1,156 students enrolled in the fall 2011 semester, 623 full-time and 533 part-time. Approximately 85 percent of the students are from Aroostook County. Over the 50 years since the college was created NMCC has grown from a “trade” school with four programs to a comprehensive community college offering 27 programs covering a wide range of careers. The trades continue to be a cornerstone of the institution, with nearly one quarter of the current students enrolled in a hands-on trade program that will lead to a career in their field in just two years. Liberal studies is the largest program at the college, with more than 200 students enrolled as they either begin their coursework for an NMCC program, such as nursing, that they are waiting to get in, or get an affordable start for their ultimate goal of a 4-year degree. NMCC has always centered its efforts around providing educational opportunity and skill development to provide a strong workforce for employers in the region. Always paramount has been ensuring that students who turn to NMCC for their opportunity receive the highest quality and personalized education possible, whether to prepare them immediately for the workforce or to continue their education. “In that regard, our future is in our past,” said NMCC President Timothy Crowley. “Historically, program development was the result of responding to needs of businesses in the community. Moving forward we will need to be even more proactive. Key to that is working hand in glove with economic development folks and taking a leap to ensure we train the workforce in the direction that growth is anticipated in order to attract business.”