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Column: Ivy Tech makes good return on education investment

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As you might have read in the Johnson County Daily Journal recently, Ivy Tech Community College has purchased 27 acres of land on Franklin’s east side.

This land is necessary to continue meeting the growing demands we have at our Franklin campus and allow us to serve more students in and around Johnson County.

This purchase of property would not have been possible without the incredible support we continue to receive in the Franklin community. We don’t take that support lightly.

We extend our gratitude to those who see Ivy Tech as the incredible asset that it is. The foresight and vision of those who are making the campus expansion possible in Franklin will touch the lives of community college students for generations to come.

We are fast approaching another season of college graduation ceremonies, times that were once for celebration. Today, many students receive their four-year degree with more than $80,000 in debt and no prospects of a good job — hardly something to celebrate.

For the first time, the middle class in this country is faced with the reality that a college education might no longer be a viable financial option.

Community college students are graduating debt free and finding good paying jobs. Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder spoke to dozens of these students across the country as part of research for his book “The Community College Career Track: How to Achieve the American Dream Without a Mountain of Debt.”

What he found is what our students in Indiana have been telling us — community colleges should be the front door to all Hoosiers seeking a career or advanced degrees.

Whether it is helping a traditional student or a displaced worker, community colleges offer an opportunity to pursue a higher education degree, a certification program that leads directly to employment, or a more affordable pathway to a bachelor’s degree.

Community colleges work directly with local businesses. They find out what training employees should have and create a curriculum that meets that demand. Many of the professors actually work in these industries and bring a wealth of knowledge that they pass on to their students.

Ivy Tech is filling a need in Franklin and throughout Indiana. More freshmen are enrolled at Ivy Tech this year than at IU, Purdue, Ball State, IUPUI and Indiana State combined.

We are endorsed by the State of Indiana, and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and several professional organizations specific to our academic programs, such as business administration, nursing and visual communications.

The single most important thing community college students have in common is that their education costs less than $10,000 and leads to good paying jobs that offer an opportunity for advancement.

Nursing, culinary arts, technology, law enforcement and graphic design are all areas of study offered by community colleges, and these industries, among others, are projected to grow substantially in the next decade, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

There is no need to graduate with a mountain of debt and no prospect of a job. Community colleges are now the middle class’s last hope for a higher education degree.

We’re hopeful federal and state governments follow the Franklin community’s lead in supporting community college students.

Community colleges offer students a more attractive return on investment.

With the recent support we have received, it is obvious Franklin community leaders understand that.

Tina Gross is executive director of the Franklin campus of Ivy Tech Community College.

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