On May 12, 2009, AACC President and CEO Dr. George R. Boggs was interviewed by CNN correspondent Heidi Collins for a segment about how community colleges are helping students during the economic downturn. Below is the transcript of the segment.
COLLINS: Our Class of '09 segment puts the spotlight on students graduating during this recession. Today, we're talking about community colleges. As the recession goes on, more and more people are headed there. We'll talk to a few of them, coming up next.
COLLINS: Searching for educational alternatives in these tough economic times. One option, community colleges. A lot of people say they're a good place to get a first-rate education at a bargain price. So, we wanted to find out more about community colleges as part of our special look at the Class of 2009.
So, from Chicago this morning, we have Andrea Andrada, who is a student at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Indiana (sic). Joining us from Cleveland, David Sigmund, a student at Stark State College in Canton, Ohio. And from Washington, George Boggs, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. Thanks, guys, for being here.
Andrea, I want to start with you. You graduated at the top of your class and then chose to attend a community college. Why did you go this route?
ANDREA ANDRADA, STUDENT, ELGIN COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Well, it was primarily for financial reasons. And I believe that's probably why community colleges don't have that great of a reputation. It's because most people come to them because it fits their budget. But really, they need to understand that the quality of education exists at community colleges, and it's such a surprising and wonderful thing to have in our society.
COLLINS: So, what's your experience been like so far?
ANDRADA: It's been wonderful. It's been one of the best experiences of my life. And...
ANDRADA: ... because community colleges -- yes, they really care about you. The faculty and the teachers and staff and, like, the student life department. They care about your growth as a person. And they give you the tools to make sure that you succeed further beyond the community college. And I believe that so many students who graduate from the community college level are going to be very successful.
COLLINS: All right. Very good.
Well, David, talking to you, you're a 56-year-old grandfather who is working full-time. So, is that why you chose to go to community college?
DAVID SIGMUND, STUDENT, STARK STATE COLLEGE: Yes, I chose to go to the community college back in 2004 because it was convenient. And the big advantage for me is the community college is very flexible with people that work. Especially like myself, who works rotating shifts. And 86 percent of the students at my college do have a job outside of the college itself.
COLLINS: So, what are you going to school for? Are you trying to change industries that you're in?
SIGMUND: Well, I'm in school right now for applied industrial technology, which was kind of, like, based with my job as being an industrial electrician.
SIGMUND: And after graduation, I'm going on for a degree in applied management. And what I'm focusing on is to begin a second career after I retire in three years, and hopefully that will be in marketing and recruiting with my community college because I just...
SIGMUND: ... I really want to support the college. I believe in it that much.
COLLINS: All right. Well, terrific. Let's talk to George, George Boggs, because your association actually represents more than 1,100 community colleges. Are these schools -- I imagine -- seeing an increase in enrollment now?
GEORGE BOGGS, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES: Yes, Heidi, enrollments are surging in community colleges across the country in response to some of the things you've heard from these two fine students.
COLLINS: Right. So, what do you see as the future here?
BOGGS: Well, I think people are discovering the high quality that community colleges have. The low -- the small class sizes, the convenience and the high quality that students can transfer to a university or go into the world of work.
COLLINS: See, it sounds like things have changed quite a bit, though, by way of who is attending community colleges. You believe that that is due to the economy?
BOGGS: I think that's part of the reason we're seeing the surge right now. Of course, a lot of people who are unemployed are coming back to college. Also, more younger students are coming right out of high school into community colleges so they can save the money. They can live at home. They can pay much less in tuition and fees and still obtain a quality education.
COLLINS: All right. I want to get back to Andrea quickly because, Andrea, we'd love to hear some advice from you for other students who are thinking about college now and really struggling to come up with the money.
ANDRADA: Well, community colleges are one of the greatest investments in our society. And I believe that it was one of the greatest choices I ever made. Because I didn't want to attend a community college at first. I thought I was cheating myself out of a great education. I mean, all of my peers were immediately going off to other universities, and I was staying at home.
But in the long run, I've had so many more opportunities that I don't think I would have had if I had gone straight to a four-year university. And it's a great opportunity to develop your personal skills and your leadership skills and just grow where you are for the meantime, and then you'll have the tools to be able to succeed in the future at another institution, so...
COLLINS: All right. Understood.
ANDRADA: ... it's a great investment.
COLLINS: All right. Very good.
Well, David, what about you? Do you have any advice for students who, maybe even nontraditional students who want to go to college but are having a hard time financially?
SIGMUND: Beyond a doubt, the community college is your best investment. It provides for the lowest-cost education. But the most important thing is that people understand that those classes are taught by, you know, very knowledgeable professors that are very in tune with the real-life situations.
It is because you hear "community college" doesn't mean it's a second-rate education. It's a very good education, and it is every bit as equal, and in some cases, superior than a four-year college. When you're talking about 30 students in a classroom in comparison to over 400, you can see what I'm saying.
COLLINS: Yes. So George, is that true? As you look across these 1,100 different community colleges that you represent, staffing is not a problem? You're getting premiere staffing, and you're also talking about smaller class size, all of these things? Sell the community college for us.
BOGGS: Well, yes, that's true. The community colleges, we have to remember are credited by the same agencies that accredit the major universities in this country. So, the faculty are very highly qualified, and as the students have mentioned, the class sizes are much smaller than you'd find in the first two years at a major university.
So, of course, for some students, going away from home to a university is the best answer. But for a lot of students, going to their local community college is the best option for them.
COLLINS: All right. Well, to the three of you, we sure do appreciate your time today. Andrea Andrada, David Sigmund and George Boggs. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it. Community colleges today...
SIGMUND: My pleasure.
BOGGS: Thank you.