In Our View: Boosting Higher Ed

New Clark College program has a special focus

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Far be it from any casual observer of higher education to conclude that one student’s family would feel more proud than any other family. But you’ve got to admit, there’s a distinct feeling that grows in a first-time, first-generation college student and flows among his relatives. Parents who have been to college themselves draw on their own background as they help prepare their progeny for learning beyond high school. But parents who have not been to college don’t have that resource to draw from.

So it’s great to hear that Clark College has received a $1.68 million federal grant to help students complete their education, and that a strong component of that program will focus on first-time, first-generation students. The money will be spread out over five academic years and used to increase staffing for counseling and program assessment. Some programs will strengthen relationships between first-generation students and faculty, with a goal of increasing the completion rate from 20 percent of students in the program to 30 percent. The national rate at two-year colleges is 22 percent.

In a recent Columbian story, Shanda Diehl, an associate vice president at Clark, said the programs will help these students “navigate the system. That’s really important at Clark, where 67 percent of our students are first-generation college students.” That’s about 3,000 to 4,000 students each year.

Students fail to finish at community colleges for a variety of reasons, such as the demands of work or family obligations. Now, Clark College students will have more people and programs at the school to propel them toward the finish line. If you hear a particularly loud cheer at Clark College’s next graduation ceremony, it might be for a first-time, first-generation student.