Josh Bullock, Guest Columnist: Finances are a top concern for community college students | Columns


In the recently released Lake Land College trend analysis report, research indicates that financial insecurity is a major concern for many community college students and can often hamper their ability to meet their graduate goals.

A national survey conducted at the start of the pandemic showed that four in 10 community college students were food insecure and 11% were homeless. Local data collected before the pandemic supports this national trend. A fall 2019 survey of 557 students by the PTK section of Lake Land found that 74% of respondents reported having financial difficulties in their daily lives to pay for basic needs such as gasoline, food and bills, and 73% of respondents said they had to work at least 11 hours or more per week. Almost 50% of all community college students participating in a national survey said lack of financial resources was an issue that could cause them to withdraw from college.

It might be easy for us as a community to look away; however, the impact of this data extends beyond the Lake Land College campus.

When our Lake Land College students who live paycheck to paycheck have a financial mishap – a trip to the emergency room, a broken down car, an unexpected bill – it can be a turning point in their educational journey.

At Lake Land College, we have several mechanisms in place to help students, such as the Laker Food Pantry and an emergency aid fund created by a generous donor from the Lake Land College Foundation. However, it only helps students who ask. How many of our students don’t turn to us for help?

Why is this an important topic to consider as a community? The level of education of a community can be linked to economic success. In a recently published study, the authors found a significant positive correlation between educational attainment and strong economic growth, indicating that an increase of just 1% in the number of people obtaining a bachelor’s degree can have a positive impact on the economy. .

The 2021 Illinois Community College Board Economic Impact Study supports this report, showing that students who earn an Associate degree from Lake Land College will have significantly more income over the course of their careers, earning an average of $ 550,000 in more than a person who does not attend university.

While the Lake Land College District population is comparable to that of residents with an associate’s degree, we fall far behind in the number of residents with a bachelor’s degree. Only about 17.8% of residents of the Lake Land College district earned a bachelor’s degree, almost 50% below the statistic for all Illinois residents at 34.7%, according to the Trend Analysis report.

Lake Land College is great value for those looking to move on for a bachelor’s degree or those looking for a diploma, certificate, or associate’s degree for an immediate career. And, we are fortunate in the Lake Land College District to have many businesses, educational institutions and organizations working together to develop innovative opportunities to grow our region’s economy. The high level view is optimistic, but I wonder what that view might look like for a financially insecure person looking to advance in higher education. Does this person have the financial resources, adequate support and personal flexibility to progress in their studies? I look forward to continuing this important work together to help more students achieve their goals, advance our district’s educational level needle, and boost our global regional economy.

Josh bullock is the president of Lake Land College


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