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DECEMBER 2012

BOOK REVIEW
‘The Community College Career Track: A Guide for High-Schoolers, Career-Changers, Parents and Advisors’

‘The Community College Career Track: A Guide for High-Schoolers, Career-Changers, Parents and Advisors’
By Thomas J. Snyder.
Published by John Wiley & Sons, 2012, Hoboken, New Jersey: 232 pp.

By Merri Rosenberg

Community colleges have gotten a lot of attention recently. Not only has President Barack Obama cited them as a cornerstone of an efficient and effective means of training people for whatever new economy awaits, but more and more families are taking a new look at community colleges because of sticker shock from traditional four-year colleges.

As Thomas Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, explains, “If you think of higher education solely in terms of the traditional model of four residential years on campus, you’re setting your sights too narrowly.”

The purpose of this book is to offer practical advice for high school students and their parents, as well as those adults who need to retrain after an industry or career vanishes, who might find community colleges a useful alternative. “America’s unique higher educational resource, the community colleges, can give you the higher education you need and want,” writes Snyder. “You can achieve and sustain your individual American dream without incurring a mountain of debt.”

That’s undoubtedly a welcome message to many higher education consumers. Not only do many community colleges offer a rigorous academic program, but their lower cost alleviates much of the debt burden that many liberal arts graduates confront. And the fact is that many highly selective four-year colleges welcome students who’ve done well at community colleges, opening doors and enabling opportunities that might not otherwise have been available to a graduating high school senior.

When I wrote about where Westchester high school students went to college, I remember my surprise to find out that Westchester Community College was the top destination. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been. The race for super-elite college admissions isn’t one that applies to all.

There are other advantages to community colleges, especially for adult workers who have to update their skills to stay competitive — and employed.

When President Obama mentioned a single mother in North Carolina who found a well-paying job after receiving laser and robotics training, the author notes that “The vital role of community colleges in workforce training and retraining should come as no surprise to savvy businesses of all sizes.”

In a rapidly changing economy, where new fields emerge as others disappear, the network of more than 1,000 community colleges across the nation is an invaluable resource for students and companies alike. Since these colleges have as their core mission worker training, Snyder argues fiercely that companies and community colleges should work closely to align their needs and curricula, to provide companies with skilled employees and workers with much-needed jobs.

Some of the successful partnerships he cites include Washington state’s Edmonds Community College with the Aerospace Futures Alliance and Walla Walla Community College with Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.; North Carolina’s Central Piedmont Community College’s training program designed with manufacturers and several Ohio community colleges working with the biotech and health care industries, among others.

This is an important and helpful addition to the already plentiful collection of college advising materials. #

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