College market at "tipping point," says CSCC president

Kitty McConnell

"This is the time for community colleges," David Harrison, president of Columbus State Community College told the Columbus Metro Club audience at today's "What's on Your Mind" Forum.

Harrison's conversation with WBNS-10TV anchor Jerry Revish focused on the cost-benefits of community colleges and Columbus State's employment-focused curricula.

"We bring a pragmatic approach to the student debt crisis," said Harrison. Columbus State puts "all of (its) resources" into education, rather than campus amenities; faculty are 100% focused on teaching rather than dividing their attention between the classrooms and research, Harrison says.

He compared the college-loan crisis to the mortgage meltdown that triggered the Great Recession. Student debt is an increasingly multi-generational issue, he says. Students with undergraduate debt are financing graduate degrees in their 30s and 40s, when they should, ideally, be saving for their kids' college educations.

"We need to change the community conversation so more students and family are informed about their choices," he said. Columbus State partners with K-12 students to reduce remedial education costs. The college also acts as an entry point for degree programs at larger public and private institutions.

AEP and JP Morgan Chase both recently granted $5 million and $2.5 million, respectively, for the development of programs aimed at maximizing jobs-ready programs and graduation rates at Columbus State. Harrison praised the city's corporate community, local leaders and Columbus 2020 for their collaborative attention to the pressures affecting high ed: "We live in a sophisticated town as it relates to education."