At the Community College of Vermont, we believe education beyond high school is a necessity for all, and not a privilege for some. Now more than ever, higher education must be understood as central and fundamental to a healthy economy.
Vermonters are increasingly ambivalent about higher education. Many elementary and high school students and their families are hearing a college story that excludes them. The message is that college is not for them: that they are not smart enough; that their family lacks the money; that a degree is not worth the time or effort; or that if they just work hard enough, they can succeed with a 12th-grade education.
This story is overdue for a revision. In today’s Vermont, all young people need to know—and believe—that continuing their education after high school is not only an option, it is essential. All families need to know that Vermont communities thrive when Vermont’s economy is strong, and Vermont’s economy is strong when employees have the skills they need for the jobs that are available. This begins with the understanding that learning is a lifelong pursuit.
I’d like to invite business leaders to join me in stepping up to the challenge of revising the higher education story. As employers, you make the strongest case to prospective employees that a high school diploma will no longer guarantee success. We need your help in making sure that families and students from all backgrounds see the value in furthering their education beyond high school.
In the state of Vermont, we’ve long prided ourselves on independence and self-sufficiency. But working in isolation means we’re losing ground: businesses are leaving the state, and we’re having a difficult time attracting both businesses and workers. Changing the story around higher education will depend on greater collaboration between colleges, primary and secondary schools, and employers. It will also result in a greater collective impact on Vermont communities.
Our ability to rise to this challenge affects everyone—from the CEO all the way to the first-grader for whom a post-secondary education will decide their ability to succeed; to support a family; to grow a business, a community, and the well-being of our state.
I hope you’ll join me.