It takes a lot of partners with a vision for a brighter future to address social issues in our community. Mesa Community College, Mesa Public Schools and the city of Mesa are helping make a difference in one critical area: preparing high school students for college and careers.
The benefits of an educated populace may be self-evident to most, but a look at the numbers can be striking. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that Millennial college graduates in the 25- to 32-year-old age range working full time – those still at the beginnings of their careers – earn $17,500 more annually than those with only a high school diploma.
Multiply that earnings disparity over a lifetime for each person, and then consider the value of higher education through personal and socio-economic lenses. In addition to the obvious personal and professional benefits of higher education, these numbers also point to improved economic conditions in general, more jobs for communities, and better-paying jobs. At the other end of the same spectrum are higher rates of poverty, public assistance and crime for those who don’t continue their educational journey from high school.
A more educated populace is more productive economically, socially and intellectually, and they’re more fulfilled. The same Pew study found that those with a college education saw their jobs as careers or a stepping stone to a career (86 percent vs. 57 percent), while those with a high school diploma or less said their work was “just to get (them) by” (42 percent vs. 14 percent for those with a college education).
Even more telling: 22 percent of the current 25- to 32-year-olds who stopped their formal education with high school live in poverty, compared to 6 percent of those with a college degree.
Credit Mesa Public Schools for taking action on high school graduation rates and providing resources and encouragement to those graduates to continue their education. The partnership between MPS, the city of Mesa and MCC – Mesa Counts on College – is an example of civic responsibility among institutions working together to improve the lives of others. In addition to space with resources for the community at the Mesa Community Outreach Center, Mesa Counts on College offers a number of ways for all community members to find new opportunities to continue their education. Urban Corps, Earn to Learn and GED to MCC are some of the programs already in operation.
Another of these programs at MCC is Fast Tracking the Dream to College Completion, a community partnership that seeks to minimize or remove the financial barrier to a college education. The focus is to improve access to a college education for low to moderate income individuals and to enhance the financial literacy of participants. Earned income that is deposited into a special savings account with an approved financial institution is tripled to pay for tuition, books, fees, and course materials at MCC. It has been replicated by Coconino Community College for its “$ave2Learn” program.
This year MCC is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and we’re proud of our partnerships with business, industry and government. None may be more important than Mesa Counts on College. Its success can be the next step in educating more citizens and in turn, improving the economic and social well being of everyone in Mesa and beyond its boundaries.
Mesa Community College’s legacy as an economic engine, educational partner and civic and cultural touchstone in the East Valley is made richer by these and other programs MCC has embraced. Partnerships like Mesa Counts on College demonstrate our commitment to cooperation and collaboration, and in the power of working together for a common goal.
We’ve all grown together in Mesa and the East Valley over the past 50 years, and programs like Mesa Counts on College will ensure another 50 years of strengthening communities through excellence in education.
Dr. Roger L. Yohe
Acting vice president
Mesa Community College
Editor’s note: The above letter to the editor was printed in the Feb. 25, 2015, issue of the East Mesa Independent newspaper.
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