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Developing a college-going culture

By Dr. Chris Duree, IVCCD Chancellor

I recently had the privilege of listening to New York Times best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, who emphasized the importance of our country maximizing the enormous amount of human talent that we have coming out of our high schools. He noted what those of us who work in Iowa’s community colleges have known for a long time: “talent” cannot always be measured by college placement exam scores. All too often, students do not perform well on college placement exams for a wide variety of reasons and are left with a feeling of failure and the unfortunate negative thought that college is not meant for them.

The truth of the matter is that college placement exams are a very narrow definition of a student’s potential. As history has taught us, many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs have been diagnosed with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, or have faced uphill battles and challenges along their entire path to success.

This is where the community college “open-door” policy puts us in a “league of our own.” We are perfectly positioned to accept all levels of talent, help students find the right career pathway, and ensure their individual talents are developed, not squandered. Community college staff and faculty work with students in smaller, more individualized learning environments to provide all of the services and instruction necessary for them to experience success.

Much has been written about the critical need for high school graduates to pursue some level of education after high school. For our country to remain competitive in a global economy, all of us will need to work together in every community to develop a college-going culture and create a talent-rich pipeline that will meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. The message will need to remain consistent – going to college is a must, and no one should be told that if they go to college, they are destined to be a failure.

Growing a college-going culture in every community is not going to be easy. There again, few things in life worth the aspirations to achieve are easy. But as thousands of high school students prepare to graduate in the forthcoming weeks, do them a favor. Encourage going on to college. And if they respond that they do not feel smart enough to go to college, send them our way and we will take care of them.

Dr. Chris Duree is Chancellor of Iowa Valley Community College District, which operates Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Marshalltown Community College, and MCC’s Iowa Valley Grinnell satellite campus.

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