This story was written by a staff member of The Independent, Clark College’s campus newspaper, as part of a collaboration with The Columbian called Voices From Clark College. It will be published online today by The Independent at clarkcollegeindependent.com.
Clark College students say they feel well-prepared for their future — whether it takes them to another institution or straight into the workforce.
That's according to a survey conducted earlier this month by student journalists at the college's student newspaper, The Independent.
The survey lent perspective for a student panel at The Columbian's annual Economic Forecast Breakfast, being held Thursday at the Hilton Vancouver Washington. For the first time, the breakfast includes a student panel called "Voices of our Youth." Students from Washington State University Vancouver, Clark College, Vancouver Public Schools and Evergreen Public Schools comprise the panel, which is being moderated by Clark College President Bob Knight.
Some 364 students, representing about three percent of the 13,096 full- and part-time students enrolled for the winter term at Clark College, participated in the seven-question survey. Students in history, art, engineering, communications, foreign language and English courses completed the surveys.
"We conducted the survey so that there would be a broad range of students," said Aleksi Lepisto, The Independent's editor-in-chief. "We thought this was the fair way to do it."
Of the students polled, 242 reported they felt "well-prepared" for their future, whether they plan to transfer to a four-year school or enter the job market. The survey found that 301 students plan to transfer, while 24 said they intend to look for work in Clark County.
Chad Lomax, a mechanical engineering student, said his experience at Clark "doesn't feel like high school busy work. It feels like we're learning what executives would want us to."
About 80 percent of those polled said they are working toward an academic transfer degree and another 10 percent are working toward a career or technical degree or certificate, such as business technology or early childhood education.
Of the respondents, 161 said they were 18 years old or younger, the second largest group of students polled. Overwhelmingly, 114 of those younger students answered "well-prepared" regarding their future, with 134 planning to stay in Clark County to look for work.
Clark is the largest Running Start school in the state, with 1,846 students who participate in that program enrolled for winter term, according to Linda Calvert, Clark's associate director of the program. Running Start is a dual-enrollment program that enables high school juniors and seniors to finish high school and attend college at the same time..
While many survey respondents said they felt prepared, few actually reported using resources available to them at the college, such as résumé-building workshops and job-placement services. "About 10 percent actually used the career resources offered by the college," Lepisto said. "It's interesting to see such a disparity between people using services and people feeling prepared."
Lepisto, 27, started college at Clark two years ago and said he feels his experiences at the community college have prepared him for the future. He noted, however, that like most who responded to the survey, he's not made use of career resources the college offers students.
Reporter Ryan Rutledge is a member of the student panel at The Columbian's Economic Forecast Breakfast.