I came across this article last week about the increase in students from affluent families who are choosing community college. It was pointing out an interesting shift in considering community colleges, though it just seems like common sense to me.
When I graduated from high school, I really didn’t consider anything other than the local community college. I wasn’t eager to leave home and I was raised to be very fiscally responsible. The combination of those things made the local community college, Mineral Area College, a no-brainer. I also had a four-year plan and starting working on it as soon as I started at MAC. My interests were a combination of music and business. I knew I wanted to transfer to music business program at Belmont University, so I met with a counselor there and planned my schedule at MAC according to the freshman and sophomore requirements for Belmont. I was able to get a music scholarship which paid for my first two years' tuition, fees, and books at MAC. That allowed me to save more money for the next two years at Belmont. In the end, I am probably one of the few people with a business degree and 20 hours of music theory.
When I decided to make a career change and began teaching, the first place I looked to for a job was a community college. I taught at two community colleges in Tennessee – Nashville State Community College and Volunteer State Community College. The things I liked about the makeup of the classes when I was attending community college were the same things I liked about teaching at community college. I also taught for a year at MiddleTennessee State University. I liked teaching there, but I liked the smaller classes and getting a chance to know who my students were in teaching at community college.
The makeup of the community college class is an advantage to everyone. My music theory class was made up of me, another student my age, and two “returning learners” who were also parents. That was a microcosm of the typical class. I learned a lot from my classmates, and I see the same thing happening in my classes now. Teaching mostly software-based classes, I see student right out of high school helping students who have not been in college in some time, and I see older students sharing real-world experience. This makes for great discussions in class and a valuable experience that you would not get in a lecture hall of 300+ students. I also believe in the connection with the community. Community colleges and local business build productive relationships, and I love to see community members attend and participate in special events on campus. I can easily stand for hours on my soap box about community college.
When I decided to move back to Missouri and began looking for positions, my brother-in-law (who was practically acting as my personal headhunter) passed along the opening posted at SCC. When I started researching the college, I was really impressed by the rapid growth of such a relatively young institution. The community college I was coming from had roughly the same enrollment and was established 13 years prior to SCC. There seemed to be a bigger commitment to growth and to appealing to much broader group of potential students than I had experienced before. The average age of students at SCC was also four years younger than where I was coming from, but there was still a significant number of returning learners. The campus and classroom space was impressive, and I felt really welcome and comfortable by everyone I met during my interview. I was very happy to get the job offer and could not ask for a better group of colleagues to work with each day. I was immediately struck by their collegiality; no one was territorial about courses, material, or jobs. If something needed to be done, it seemed that everyone just did what was needed. I honestly feel very lucky to have landed where I have. There are always things we can find that need improvement, but I can honestly say that the folks I work with have the same passion and commitment to community college and SCC as I do. I drive about an hour each way to teach at SCC because I want to live closer to my family, but the environment makes it worth continuing to do that (though sometimes it makes for a very short turnaround time from one day to the next).
This post is a little long, but this is why I am teaching at a community college and why am I happy to be at SCC. Why are you here?