Letter to the Editor:
College is Not Out of Reach for Anyone
Many of us listen to the news or read social media posts that college is out of reach and only the elite have resources to take advantage of a better career. Let me tell you, that is fake news!
A community college is the place where individuals – of all ages – who never dreamed of a college education are finding themselves on the path to the American Dream. At Dabney S. Lancaster Community College (DSLCC), we serve students from ages 15-80. Some are dually-enrolled in high school, others take classes for personal satisfaction, but more prepare for transfer to universities or entering the local workforce.
In a recent study we commissioned from EMSI, a leading economic impact company, 54% of the adults in our service region have only some college or just a high school diploma or GED. Meanwhile, in DSLCC’s service region which includes the counties of Alleghany, Rockbridge, Bath, and northern Botetourt and the cities of Covington, Lexington, and Buena Vista there are at least 100 unfilled jobs in the areas of manufacturing, transportation, customer service, and hospitality. To be considered for these unfilled job openings, applicants need to demonstrate the knowledge and skill sets for the position. In the current economy, growing numbers of high-wage, high-demand jobs may not always require a bachelor’s degree. One may enter a career pathway with a certificate, license, industry credential, or an associate’s degree.
We know that a high school diploma or GED is no longer enough to ensure that Americans have the skills they need to move into good-paying and rewarding careers. By the end of this decade, almost 70 percent of all job openings will require an education or skills training beyond what any student receives in high school. Completing these extra steps will translate to higher earnings over a lifetime, perhaps as much as a half a million dollars.
Every student, regardless of family income, should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. This is the first step in the financial process to access grants, scholarships or student loans. At DSLCC, many students who think they could not receive financial aid learn that they are indeed eligible for aid and the chance to participate in our programs such as the Dabney Promise or the America’s Promise Grant. Numbers as of March 1 from the Federal Student Aid website show only 48% of Virginia high school seniors have completed the FAFSA for next school year. It is critical that all students apply!
Thanks to the support of the Virginia Legislature, DSLCC and all the state’s community colleges have been able to provide funding for high-demand industry training through the New Economy Workforce Credentials Grant Program. This program provides tuition assistance to expand the affordability of workforce training and credentialing for current and future Virginia workers needed to fill selected technician and skilled-trades level positions.
Dabney S. Lancaster Community College is here to help you with your American Dream. In my almost 29 years in community college education, there has never been as much access to available tuition dollars as there is right now. All of us who work in higher education have witnessed how education has unlocked doors of opportunity. Our resources can help unlock the door to your dreams.
Dr. John J. Rainone
Dabney S. Lancaster Community College