Riverland is proud to keep community in name

Published 8:40 am Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Terrence Leas, Riverland Comm. College

Several community colleges have chosen to remove the word “community” from their official names. Riverland Community College, however, works hard to retain the community part of its name. Perhaps this name-change trend relates to college marketers’ need to make a college title’s length more manageable or a clever strategy to mask some outdated stigmas community colleges face.

Terrence Leas

Our graduates would certainly contest any assumptions that suggest students who go to community colleges are not smart enough to go to a four-year university or do not have enough money to attend a university or did not do well in high school. We have legions of graduates who have become valuable to our workforce or successfully transferred to complete bachelor or master’s degrees at universities nationwide.

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The heart of Riverland is its open enrollment, which allows students an opportunity to enroll in our programs of study at our three campuses or online. Open enrollment took root in the 1970s to provide equal educational opportunities to students from diverse backgrounds. This distinction makes Riverland a more democratic, inclusive institution than colleges and universities that restrict enrollment according to finances or academic success.

As a comprehensive college, Riverland not only offers liberal arts and sciences (general studies) but also technical programs that train students to become valued high-skilled workers in our communities. Area business and industry leaders serve as advisers and help faculty members shape the outcomes for each program to fit the needs of our region. In this way, these business leaders are helping students achieve competency in their fields.

As the faces of the communities we serve change, so does Riverland. Once thought to be the next step after high school, the latest demographics suggest that almost half of our students are age 26 or older. Just more than half of our students attend part-time. With nearly 20 percent of our enrollment online, Riverland broke the borders of our region to make a quality community college education possible worldwide.

Financing college in today’s economy can be a hardship, but Riverland offers an affordable, high-quality alternative to more expensive private and public universities. For example, the average full-time tuition for the colleges and universities featured in the August 2010 edition of Minnesota Monthly was $22,580. In contrast, Riverland’s tuition for a full-time student is a more affordable $4,491. Riverland offers an outstanding value to our students! This bargain also allows our students to work in our communities until they are ready to transfer to a university to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Riverland partners with area employers to provide more affordable postsecondary education options that are aligned with national skills standards to all students who want to enroll. By working with local employers to meet the workforce needs of our region, we believe that Riverland has earned the right to include “community” in its name.

Terrence Leas is the president of Riverland Community College. His column appears monthly.