Risley: Never a Better Time To Be a Community College Graduate

by jamesc  5/20/2014 7:45:36 AM --  NORFOLK – Community College graduates receive training that allows them to achieve as superior of an education as many graduates from some of the nation’s top four-year higher education institutions, according to Dr. Rod Risley, executive director of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), an international honor society of two-year colleges.


“Ivy League Schools across this country all are aggressively recruiting these (community college) students because we now have the data to say that if you give these people a seat at the table at a selected senior college, they will perform as well, if not better, than students who attended that senior institution exclusively.”

Risley, who was the speaker at Northeast Community College’s 41st Commencement ceremony recently here, said that there has never been a better time to be a community college graduate. “I have never witnessed the attention community colleges are seeing by corporations, foundations, and the national media. They have all discovered community colleges and their importance to this country.”

He said, unfortunately, community college graduates are the exception to the rule. “Nationally, only 15-25 percent of students enrolled in community colleges earn their credential or degree in six years. Why does that matter? The United States has fallen from number one among the 34 industrialized economies in the world, with a percentage of its citizens with a higher education degree or credential, to number 16. In terms of our students scoring in math skills, we are ranked 25th out of 34.”

Risley said everyone must realize that they live in a global economy. He said many question whether the U.S. will continue to be able to compete with emerging nations. “How in the world will communities like Norfolk be able to compete, or fund public education, our roads and bridges or help those people who cannot help themselves? How are we going to do all these things if we don’t have people in our community with the skills to be competitive?”

Risley said in less than four-years, two-thirds of jobs in the United States will require a post-secondary degree or credential. He told Northeast graduates that completing their degree does matter in their lives. Students who complete their degrees or certificates will earn an average of $500,000 more over the course of their careers than their peers who did not complete. In addition, individuals with credentials are less likely to become unemployed than their co-workers who did not earn credentials.      

College completion is a core principal of PTK. Phi Theta Kappa has launched the C4 - Community College Completion Corps Campaign, which is designed to be a student led, campus-based effort, to increase student success by letting all students know about the benefits of completing a credential/degree and the consequences of not completing.

As a result, Risley said hundreds of thousands of community college students have pledged to Commit to Complete – including hundreds at Northeast –  and accepting responsibility for completing their credential/degree and promising to help at least one other student complete.

Risley is disappointed how many people view those who have earned a degree. “I feel ours is a society and a culture that promotes mediocrity. Make this a community where being smart is valued. In Norfolk, Nebraska, and points beyond, it’s cool to be smart. Don’t you ever apologize for that!”

Risley told the graduates it isn’t enough to possess knowledge. They need to use it to help others. He said they must remember those people, for reasons they cannot control themselves, who have lost all hope to dream of a better life. “You have the responsibility to improve the quality of life for everyone, for all in your community. You have a responsibility, as does everyone connected to this college, to provide access to hope…to live in the hearts and minds of those in despair, so that we can all dream of a better day, a better life, and a better future.”


                                                               PHOTO CUTLINE 

Dales Hayes, Jr., Lincoln, accepts his associate of applied science degree from Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast Community College, during the College’s 41st Commencement Ceremony recently. Hayes, one of 881 graduates this year, majored in audio recording technology while at Northeast.

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