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Access Is Nice, Success Is Best

By Dr. Al Roberts

Citizens of Virginia have many reasons to pursue higher education. Some want skills and knowledge. Others desire a better quality of life, enhanced respect, and greater self-confidence. Many seek increased career options and the associated financial gains. According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), “On average, people with a college education earn nearly twice as much as those with only a high school diploma.” SCHEV also notes, “The earnings gap between someone with a college degree and someone with a high school diploma has widened in the last decades and that gap is projected to widen even further in the future.”

Students have a plethora of higher education options, including the pursuit of certificates and industry-recognized credentials, associates degrees, and other higher degrees. The Commonwealth offers 23 public community colleges plus one other public two-year college, 15 public four-year colleges, 44 accredited private colleges, and many other types of education-related enterprises.

Yet many people discover that access to college is only part of the equation. Without needed support, success remains elusive. In fact, recent statistics suggest that more than half of college students who embark on an education journey in the United States fail to reach their goals.

Recognizing that students face significant barriers, Southside Virginia Community College offers a wide array of resources that make success more likely. In fact, a team from SVCC recently participated in a Student Success Leadership Institute (SSLI) sponsored by the Virginia Community College System. The SSLI is designed to implement proven student success strategies system-wide.  Under the guidance of experts, the SVCC team examined our college’s data and practices for the purpose of developing an action plan to enhance increased college completion.

These new steps complement resources already in place. For example, the college offers Comprehensive Learning Centers (CLCs) on both main campuses where professional tutors and trained student assistants offer assistance. The CLCs also help students learn how to organize and remember large amounts of information, how to maintain a schedule, how to take notes, and how to manage stress.

Additional supportive services can be found throughout the college. Admissions advisors help students explore options. Financial aid advisors help students figure out how to fund their education, and the SVCC Foundation annually disburses more than 250 scholarship awards. Counselors and faculty mentors also help keep students on track for graduation.

All these elements contribute to student achievement. On May 14, 2016, the SVCC family will gather at a graduation ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of more than 1,300 students. Combined, they will be awarded more than 700 Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Arts and Science degrees and more than 600 other certificates and diplomas. We are proud to have helped these students find success.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

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