Recent news coverage of the investigation into some for-profit colleges’ alleged “preying” on low-income students and abusing the financial aid and student loan programs makes me think about our mission and purpose. Financial aid and student loan programs are supposed to help make it possible for people to get the education and training they need to get good jobs—not to provide profits for corporations.
At Washington’s community and technical colleges, we have relatively low tuition and a financial aid policy that keeps student loans to a very small amount of the total. We aren’t here to help students incur a lot of debt. We are committed to helping students succeed in their programs and in their lives after school.
Our community and technical colleges offer programs in the same careers that the for-profit schools do, and more. Across the state, more than 100,000 students are enrolled in workforce education at a public community or technical college. Here at the Seattle Colleges, we have 135 short-term, one- or two-year degree or certificate programs in fields including health, business, manufacturing, social services, IT and the arts. Our programs are designed and created with the help of local industries to prepare students for jobs in high demand areas and family wage jobs.
Within nine months of completing one of these programs, 80 percent of our students are employed. They are in the workforce with little or no student debt, ready to contribute to their professions and thrive as individuals and family members.
Perhaps best of all, our programs are crafted to build on each other. A certificate in an entry-level health-related field is key to a good job, but it is also the first step toward another certificate, a two-year degree, and even a bachelor’s degree. We believe our students’ investment of time, money and dedicated effort should lead somewhere. Our mission is to provide excellent, accessible educational opportunities to prepare our students for a challenging future. We help students succeed now and in the future.
But we don’t have a lot of money for television advertising. Please help us spread the word. Community and technical colleges are the best investment for workforce training.