by Alicia Wanek | Staff Writer
We all want our kids to reach their potential and be successful and happy in whatever they do. Sometimes, the best way for them to reach that goal is not to go directly to a four-year university after high school. A community college like Richland College, part of the Dallas County Community College District, might be the best place to start.
“The public is not always aware of all the benefits of a community college education,” says Donna Walker, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Superintendent of the Richland College High School. From the moment a student enrolls, the school offers a level of personalization you can’t always get at a large university. The faculty and advisors offer a “more intimate connectivity”, as they work with each individual to build their skill set, explore job options, and determine what certifications or degrees they will need to go out into the work force. Then they help them do just that.
First-time college students are encouraged to take career inventories offered at Richland’s Career Services department. These help identify “aspects of your uniqueness” and suggest careers students may not have considered before or even knew about. One student was convinced he wanted to be a computer programmer because it was a lucrative profession, but when his career assessments revealed how his skills and interests were really not a match at all, he was able to revise the focus of his coursework to work toward another better-suited degree.
Donna believes, “The fabulous part of working at Richland is we have students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend a four-year university.” Perhaps a student didn’t quite have the focus in high school to have a high enough GPA for UT or Texas A&M; perhaps they changed schools often during childhood and didn’t have continuity in their education so there are gaps in their learning; or maybe they just can’t afford it. Richland will work with students to help them with study skills and make them aware of what they need to be successful in school. Donna estimates 70% of beginning students need developmental math because they just aren’t ready for college algebra, and so they are able to prepare them for the college-level courses on campus. And you definitely cannot overlook the affordability. “Students save thousands and thousands of dollars,” Donna reports, and they don’t incur the same amount of debt as they would at a larger university for the first two years.
Community colleges were created to serve the community, and the students represent all walks of life. Donna says, “The growing underserved population is those who may have ‘walked away’ from education for any number of reasons.” It’s not too late to go back – to gain new skills toward a new career, to explore a new interest, or to work toward the degree you never got. Richland has the resources to help.