Choosing Community & Technical Colleges
In a world where the information base doubles every
40 days, anyone working without specific technological skills might find their
rèsumès gathering dust on the shelf with 8-track tapes and reel-to-reel home movies.
More students, faced with an increasingly technological world, are seeking educational
opportunities tailored to their career and industry needs.
According to the Kentucky State Data Service, students
who complete some type of post-secondary degree earn more money during the course
of their careers. A high school graduate can expect to earn on average $16,022,
but completing a two-year degree as a dental hygienist bumps earnings to $48,150.
An information technologist can expect to earn on average $54,930.
Kentucky Community & Technical College System
For many people who aren’t sure what field they
want to pursue or how much a college degree will cost, two-year programs offered
through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) provide
a low-pressure, low-budget, close-to-home opportunity to become competitive
in the workplace. Created by the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of
1997, KCTCS harmonizes 28 community and technical colleges occupying 50 campuses
in Kentucky, allowing students to move easily among programs and institutions,
earning associate degrees and diplomas or certificates in academic or technical
programs. Many non-traditional students choose the community and technical college
system simply to upgrade their skills in the latest technology, such as Cisco
Systems training, computer programming, and Web design.
Why Attend Community College?
“We offer a quality education at an affordable
cost,” says Dr. Jo Marshall, president of Somerset Community College. “We
are designed to compete in cost, but Somerset Community College has chosen to
compete in quality.” As an institution in the KCTCS, Somerset Community
College offers guaranteed transfer associate degrees in arts and sciences in
such fields as nursing, physical therapy assistant, network and information
systems, clinical lab technology, and business technology.
While students are attracted to the many diverse
programs offered by Somerset Community College, many cite the low student-teacher
ratio, helpfulness of the faculty, and an intimate hands-on approach to teaching
as being just as important as course offerings.
“College is college no matter where you go,
but the teachers here work with you on a personal level. They work to foster
an educational experience, but at the same time, I could actually call some
of them friends. At a larger institution I might be taught by a grad student
or some Ph.D. sitting in his office trying to finish his next book, but here
the faculty take their courses very seriously and teaching is their primary
concern,” says Ryan Hall, a computer science major and staff member of
The Bridge, the student newspaper.
Another plus for the community college system is
the attention to hands-on experience needed to be competitive in business and
“One thing I’ve learned is experience means
everything. When students are trained with a hands-on approach, they have a
better foundation and are better prepared for a four-year degree or a job. In
a larger institution, there is a lack of one-on-one communication that we have
here with our faculty,” says Rayetta Bogle, mother of three and president
of the Student Government. Bogle is in her last semester at Somerset Community
College, working toward a degree in clinical social work with a minor in sociology.
Why Attend Technical College?
A seamless transfer of credits from college to
college is also part of KCTCS’ vision. Another college in the KCTCS, Rowan Technical
College in Morehead, offers diplomas in diverse fields such as automotive technology,
air conditioning technology, carpentry, computer assisted drafting, practical
nursing, and respiratory care.
“Our goal is different than a university. We
train people to be gainfully employed immediately after graduation. People have
built lives based on what they have learned here, and that’s good for everybody,”
says Jamie Brown, director of Rowan Technical College.
Immediate job placement is a big selling point for
many students seeking to make changes in their lives. Most students at Rowan
Technical College are right out of high school, but many nontraditional students,
having been laid off from some industry or just wanting to upgrade their skills,
attend as well. They work toward a two-year associate of applied technology
degree where they complete general education requirements such as math and English
as well as master a skill.
Brent Bradley watched his big brother Duran go through
the welding program and decided as a senior in high school to visit Rowan Technical
College to see if following in his brother’s footsteps was the way to go. He
decided yes and no, enrolling at Rowan Tech, but instead of welding, chose the
machine tool technology. His experience at Rowan Technical College reinforces
the knowledge and skills that he will someday use on the job.
“What I learn in math class is directly applied
to the skills I need for tool-and-die. The hands-on approach challenges me to
apply those skills,” says Bradley. “Plus the placement here is so
great, I’m not worried about finding a job.” For the last 17 years, Mike
Davis’ machine tool technology program has enjoyed 100% placement.
“Tool-and-die jobs are always in demand. The
economy would have to go completely flat line before there would be a shortage
of these jobs,” says Davis. Hands-on projects represent 60% of the instruction
in Davis’ class. Davis builds on what he teaches daily, as he impresses discipline
in his students to be present and learning every day.
Another student, 33-year-old Patricia Caudill, knew
that someday she wanted to work in the automotive industry, but going into an
industry where females are in the minority was somewhat daunting. After graduating
from high school, Caudill worked as data entry personnel for a local hospital,
but she soon became burned out and sought something more challenging and fulfilling.
“My father-in-law and my husband run a junkyard,
and I’ve always wanted to be involved in automotives, but I am one of these
shy types,” Caudill says. She tried her hand at Morehead State University,
taking computer and drafting classes, but she still didn’t know exactly what
she wanted to do. Caudill then decided to enroll at Rowan Technical College
in the automotive technology program, one of only two females in the program.
Caudill, who learns through doing, a type of learning
educational psychologists call kinesthetic, sees her knowledge applied to the
problems she encounters in the automotive class. The classes are small and students
who have problems have the immediate attention of automotive technology instructor
Tony Wallace. Wallace encourages students to ask questions and exercise the
skills they will need in the field.
“Eighty percent of what we do is ‘live’ work.
Students need to be able to see the symptoms for a particular problem so they
can solve it. You only get that through hands-on work,” says Wallace.
“I don’t know my chances as a woman in this
field. I’ve researched on the Internet and I know that it is harder for a woman,”
says Caudill. With an automotive technology diploma, Caudill will have knowledge
of engines, transmissions, steering, suspension, brakes, and on-board computers.
This degree can assist her in finding employment not only in a garage, but also
as a technical writer, in sales and service in a dealership, or as an associate
in an auto parts store.
“And I can always go back and teach. That’s
another option,” says Caudill. Many students do just that, switching from
two-year programs into four-year programs with ease and a good foundation from
the technical and community college system.
Kentucky Community and Technical College System
For complete information on all community and
technical colleges in Kentucky, you can call, write, or go on the Web. A packet
of information can be sent out to you, or you can gather information online.
(877) 528-2748 (toll-free in Kentucky)
2624 Research Park Drive
P.O. Box 14092
Lexington, KY 40512
Kentucky Living College Listing
For a listing of all colleges in Kentucky-four-year
colleges and universities, private and public, as well as community and technical
schools-with their enrollment, tuition, and room and board costs, and programs
of distinction, go on the Web to www.KentuckyLiving.com/collegelisting2002.htm.
Kentucky Living College Web Guide
For a listing of over 30 Web sites for researching
information on basic college needs such as career planning, financial aid, enrollment,
college comparisons, specific Kentucky sites, and testing, go online to www.KentuckyLiving.com/collegewebguide2002.htm.