LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Posted November 30, 2021
In Lake Land College’s recently published Trend Analysis report, research indicates financial insecurity is a major concern for many community college students and can often impede their ability to complete their higher education goals.
A national survey conducted early in the pandemic showed four in 10 community college students were affected by food insecurity and 11% experienced homelessness. Local data collected prior to the pandemic supports this national trend. A fall 2019 survey conducted with 557 students by Lake Land’s PTK Chapter revealed that 74% of respondents reported experiencing financial struggles in their day-to-day life to pay for basic needs such as gas, food and bills, and 73% of respondents reported having to work at least 11 or more hours per week.. Nearly 50% of all community college students participating in a national survey reported that a lack of finances was an issue that could cause them to withdraw from college.
It could be easy for us as a community to look the other way; however, the impact of this data extends beyond the Lake Land College campus.
When our Lake Land College students who are living paycheck to paycheck have a financial incident–a trip to the emergency room, a car breaking down, an unexpected bill–it can be a breaking point in their educational journey.
At Lake Land College, we have several mechanisms in place to assist students, such as the Laker Food Pantry and an Emergency Assistance Fund established by a generous Lake Land College Foundation donor. However, that only helps the students who ask. How many of our students do not turn to us for help?
Why is this an important topic for us to consider as a community? The educational attainment of a community can be linked to economic success. In a recently published study, the authors found a significant positive correlation between educational attainment and strong economic growth, indicating just a 1% increase in the number of people earning a bachelor’s degree can have a positive impact on the economy.
The 2021 Illinois Community College Board Economic Impact study supports this report, showing students who graduate with a Lake Land College associate degree will have far more earning power over their career, on average earning $550,000 more than someone not attending college.
While the Lake Land College district population is on par for residents having earned an associate degree, we lag far behind in the number of residents with a bachelor’s degree. Only about 17.8% of the residents in the Lake Land College district have earned a bachelor’s degree, nearly 50% less than the statistic for all Illinois residents at 34.7%, according to the Trend Analysis report.
Lake Land College is a great value for those seeking to transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree or those seeking a credential, certificate or associate’s degree for an immediate career. And, we are fortunate in the Lake Land College district to have many businesses, educational institutions and organizations working together to develop innovative opportunities to grow our region’s economy. The high-level view is optimistic, however I question what that view may look like for someone with financial insecurity seeking to advance through higher education? Does that person have the financial resources, adequate support and personal flexibility to advance theirself through education? I look forward to continuing this important work together to help more students reach their goals, move the needle on our district’s educational attainment and boost our overall regional economy.
Dr. Josh Bullock, President
Lake Land College
Mattoon, IL 61938