I spent the last week at Columbia University in New York learning about the missions and challenges of community colleges across the nation.
The Hechinger Institute fellowship was an amazing opportunity to hear from college leaders, policy analysts and researchers about two-year colleges, which educate nearly one-half of our nation’s college students.
But one of the most inspirational moments took place not in the historic halls of Columbia’s Teachers College, but on the airplane ride home.
On the short flight from Dallas to Will Rogers, I met a young man named Luis. The high school senior from Boulder, Colo., was enroute to his sister’s home in Oklahoma City and then to apply for enrollment at Oklahoma City Community College.
Luis, who lives in a Colorado housing project, wants to study music and business. American Idol aside, this first-generation American has a passion for singing but knows he needs a college degree to succeed in any field.
He can’t afford the University of Colorado, but was told by a high school counselor to check into community colleges. While out-of-state tuition at OCCC is less than he’ll pay if he stays in Colorado, he hopes to qualify for financial aid as an emancipated minor.
Today, I planned to go through my notes from my week in New York and prepare a schedule of stories about community colleges. Instead I’ve been thinking about Luis and the journey he’s taking. It seems so much more momentous than anything I’ll do.
Susan Simpson, Education Writer