The Value of Higher Education

Guest Correspondence

In my nearly 20 years at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, rarely has ‘Should I go to college?’ been the question asked by prospective students but rather, ‘Can I?’ Today, the value proposition of higher education remains solid. Students have numerous options, and at SCF, they can choose when, where and how they pursue a higher education conveniently and affordably.

History tells us the only constant is change. Industry needs shift, individuals outgrow or wish to change their occupations over time, professional growth is among the top retention tools, and some students never want to stop learning. For 65 years, we have adapted our academic programs and student services to be responsive to our community workforce demands.

SCF’s enrollment documents this tradition. Nearly 65% of those we serve are first-time-in-college students, followed by those continuing their education, those transferring back from large universities for the smaller one-to-one classroom setting, and individuals taking classes offered here more affordably or because it’s not offered at their primary institution.

Statistics also tell us that professionals with college degrees will earn more than those without over their lifetime. A college degree is more than a collection of classes and is meant to teach critical thinking, problem-solving and a well-rounded understanding of the world in which we live. The experience itself is also more than just obtaining credentials. Our students consider the peer network, experiential learning opportunities, internships, mentors and social interactions just as valuable as their college degree. Many of our professors maintain contact with their students, fostering their success and connecting them with resources to fulfill their potential. Our SCF pride is displayed when alums share their expertise as successful nurses, teachers, dentists, performers, artists, politicians and entrepreneurs.

Boldly engaging and collaborating to find economic and workforce solutions is also a tradition at SCF. We partner with local school districts, technical colleges and universities to create pathways for the immediate workforce, trades and fields requiring advanced studies. As the labor market shifts, SCF works with our local economic development councils, chambers and businesses to fill the talent pipeline. 

Most recently, to respond to the national crisis of a lack of commercially licensed drivers, SCF collaborated with FleetForce to offer four and eight-week certification courses for class A and B commercial driver’s licenses. We continue with our “Rapid Credentialing” program that provides workforce certificates — a fast, affordable way to prepare students for fulfilling, stable careers with mid to high-wage potential. In addition to the traditional Associate in Arts degree, SCF offers more than 30 associate in science degrees and seven baccalaureate degrees in various majors. We serve over 11,000 through non-credit courses for workforce education, development and personal enrichment. 

As we respond to today’s workforce, we must remain flexible as we know it will change again. Our responsibility is to provide our students with the tools they need to reinvent themselves as they navigate the sea of constant change they will encounter throughout their lives.

Let the value of college be demonstrated by students’ ability to choose when, where and how they will access higher education and use their education to adapt, change and reinvent themselves through their working careers. At SCF, we will meet you where you are and advise you that “you can get anywhere from here.”

Dr. Carol F. Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.

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