A Letter from the President

We might agree that higher education is important. But is a college education a make-it or break-it endeavor? While many would agree that attending college is important, not too many would consider doing so a matter of great urgency. In fact, a not uncommon attitude is that college is a rite of passage, the next thing to do after high school, or a necessary process of jumping through the hoops to “get the piece of paper.” Of course, these are gross overgeneralizations but they do raise the question: Should we view higher education with a greater sense of urgency?

Community colleges have long played an important role in providing higher education access to millions of students who otherwise would not have gone to college. Today, our institutions enroll nearly half of all students attending college (about 13 million). As open access institutions, we admit many students who are not ready for college level work, provide them with developmental classes, and do our best to get them the support they need to be successful. Unfortunately, too few of these students make it across the finish line. Nationally, only about 25% of students attending community colleges obtain an associate degree within four years. This rate is too low for a nation in need of skilled workers and it is too low for students who need additional skills and who expect higher education to do a better job of meeting their educational and vocational needs.

It is estimated that by 2018, two-thirds of all jobs in the U.S. will require some amount of college-level education—with more than half requiring some college but less than a bachelors degree. By 2016, the percentage of jobs in Maryland requiring some college preparation will be 77% according to Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations. And yet, our nation, which for generations led the world in college degree completion, now ranks 16th in numbers of graduates. The bottom line is this: We need to get more students the credentials and degrees necessary to compete in the global economy, more quickly, and with less failure.

Now more than ever, the traditional community college mission of open access includes an urgent focus on success. On measures of student success Garrett College consistently ranks at or near the top when compared to all other Maryland community colleges. Nonetheless, we spent the better part of last year looking for ways to help more students complete their degrees. For example, we revamped our developmental education program for underprepared students and created two new faculty positions whose sole focus is working with these students. We created a new Advising and Academic Success Center to help students create solid roadmaps of where they’re going with their studies. We developed clear expectations about what it means to be a student at Garrett College, what it takes to be successful, and how important it is to finish. These are just a few examples of how our commitment to completion is being put into action.

We recognize that a lot of heavy lifting remains to be done to meet the education and workforce demands looming ahead of us. Key to this is working collaboratively to create the right mix of educational programs and services that make sense for our community. In 2011 we launched our Electrical Engineering transfer degree and began an underwater robotics club. This October, we will open the Garrett College Center for Entrepreneurship that will provide state-of-the-art entrepreneurship training aimed at creating new and successful businesses in Garrett County. Certifications in Welding, Construction Technology, Building and Apartment Maintenance, and Veterinary Assistant are currently being offered at the CTTC in Accident, and we are working with Garrett County Public Schools to develop a Machine Tool program. Development of a new cyber security program is also underway.

I am very excited about the work we are doing at Garrett College. The faculty, staff, and administrators truly understand how important it is to our community and nation. I hope you will share with us our sense of urgency.

Dr. Richard L. MacLennan
President, Garrett College