Message from Dr. Belinda S. Miles: Our Call to Action – April 2, 2021
April 2, 2021
I’ve often said that the moment you reach the peak of a mountain, there is an even higher one in front of you. In our 75 years of providing high-quality education, programs, and services to our community, we have had many mountains to climb. Enrollment, budget, talent development, legislative – challenges that face most colleges and universities. The volume and frequency of these challenges sometimes feels insurmountable making it difficult to consistently bring our best selves to our work and to our students. Still, working together and supporting each other, we have climbed, changing who we are and what we do in the process. We emerge anew each time we push through.
Our nation’s community colleges are struggling, too. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, enrollment at community colleges is down by almost 10% due to the ongoing pandemic. This eclipses the enrollment loss at four-year schools. Behind these numbers are students who are struggling to survive. Students have had to pause or drop out of college completely due to employment, family, health, homelessness, and other significant challenges. Many of these students need education to secure a sustainable income. These are students who need to be in our community colleges.
Now, more than ever, community colleges are vital to economic recovery. It is our mission to serve our community, to offer accessible and affordable opportunities to advance economic mobility and career development, especially for our most vulnerable citizens.
In this New York Times piece, Russ Deaton, executive vice chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, states, “A lot of the students we’ve lost were loosely tethered to higher education anyway. It didn’t take much to push them out of the education path.” The article cites how this decline is even more severe for Black and Hispanic students who make up 40 percent of the nation’s five million community college students and the overwhelming majority of students enrolled at WCC.
As an institution, we recognize the value of post-secondary education. Data shows that over 20% of our students who graduate from WCC move up two income quintiles. It is important that we support our students through the admissions process and as they continue along their academic pathways at WCC. As we support all of our students, I especially note the myriad opportunity programs like the Black and Hispanic Male Initiative and others designed to support our students of color.
So, what is our call to action? What is Westchester Community College doing to help our students?
Our call to action is to help students to understand the value of higher education. To help them to enroll and to persist. Recruitment and retention have never been so critical as it is now – for our students and for our institution.
We need students to understand that we will help them succeed at Westchester Community College – whether in remote or in-person classes. But to succeed, they must proceed – with their studies until they reach their academic goals. We have so much to offer students to help them with economic mobility: we help them to build networks through co-curricular clubs and through our Alumni Association connections. We help them to build their portfolios and resumes. We provide myriad opportunities for engagement and connection. Our call to action is to remain vigilant in our work to help students.
Best regards to you always. And for those who are celebrating Easter, have a joyous and happy holiday!
Dr. Belinda S. Miles