‘Your Community College Is a Safe Harbor’

May 2, 2020 |

By Jon Bauer, Ph.D., President, East Central College

College has changed drastically in just a few weeks. The COVID-19 pandemic has injected great uncertainty in the minds of students and families, and those of us in higher education have worked quickly to ensure that instruction and support continue in this very different environment.

As we prepare to reopen the economy and slowly begin to recover, thoughts naturally turn to what to do about the upcoming academic year. Many students who were planning to leave home to attend college are trying to determine if that is still the right decision. Others are wondering whether college is an option at all, home or away.

The water is pretty rough right now. But your community college, in a tumultuous sea, is a safe harbor.

East Central College provides an option that can ease some of the anxiety and concern. The path to a college degree is still available, even if that path is different from the one originally planned. As a comprehensive community college, we are well prepared to help students begin the journey to a bachelor’s degree.

Our classrooms are led by experienced faculty who work directly with their students. Data show that ECC students perform extremely well after they transfer to a four-year institution. At the University of Missouri, for example, our transfer students had “A” averages for the past two years.

The quality of the education received at East Central serves students well as they move on, whether that happens after a semester, a year, or upon completion of an associate’s degree.

I can assure you that’s true. As a parent of two East Central College alumni, I know firsthand about the quality of the education received and the preparation of our students when they move on as juniors.

Some students and families may be thinking about a gap year after high school or in the midst of college—a time to take a break until a sense of normalcy returns. I like the suggestion of a “visiting year” instead: an opportunity to study as an East Central student and work in earnest on the fundamental building blocks of a degree with the benefit of small classes, quality faculty, and strong academic support.

When the time is right, the journey to a bachelor’s degree can continue away from home at one of our partner colleges.  Students completing work in the core general education block can be assured that their credits will not only transfer, but that they will be well prepared for what comes next in their academic journey. In fact, this path is one that is well traveled.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center notes that about half of all bachelor’s degree earners began their education at a community college. Many more have obtained community college credit along the way, even if their journey began and finished away from home at a university.

Moreover, in a time of great economic uncertainty, the value presented by East Central is equally important. Not only is our tuition affordable, there are scholarships, financial aid, and the Missouri A+ program. Cost should not be a barrier.

Many students have plans for a career that begins with a community college program. However, it may seem that those plans need to be delayed for a while until things settle down. Once again, I see East Central as a place where those aspirations can be turned into reality, not delayed or even derailed. In health care, skilled trades, technology, and other programs, we are ready to help students begin their journey to a career.

We are taking every step necessary to ensure that our campus is safe. Throughout the summer, most of our instruction will be handled remotely. This fall, we expect to have both in-person and remote classes available. And we are planning now to move quickly if a resurgence of the coronavirus occurs.

We know that many of these careers—nursing being perhaps the most obvious—are essential in our community. This is a time when we need students to enroll, not wait.

We have been serving our community for more than 50 years. In all kinds of weather, we have put the wind in the sails of those looking to make the journey to college. We are here for you today, a safe harbor, and a place where your journey can continue.