Students must defend two-year colleges to state benefactors, president says

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Administrators challenge Hot Potato audience to speak up, achieve goals, support community colleges.

By Christina M. Briseno

Today’s students should stand up to political leaders and share how community colleges help students who cannot afford the big universities, this college’s president said Tuesday at the Methodist Student Center’s final Hot Potato lecture of the semester.

The big issue for students is the role of this college in this community, Dr. Robert Vela told an audience of about 35.

“Is it worth having a college here?” he said.

The state of Texas seems less inclined to think so, he revealed.

Four years ago, the Alamo Colleges had been receiving 65 percent of the budget from the state, Vela said. Since then, state funding has dropped to 24 percent, he said. Meanwhile, the majority of students in Texas are enrolled in community college.

“So you as a student, as a member of the community and as a future potential taxpayer must tackle this issue and ask what are we going to do about this trend?” Vela said. “How can we ensure that Texas continues to value community college education?”

Without state funds, tuition will rise, he said, adding that this college has managed to maintain low tuition, making it more affordable and not leaving students in debt after graduating.

This college is going through many changes from technology to new buildings and advising structures, Vela said.

The welcome center will have its grand opening May 22. The school is ramping up the transfer and career center on the first floor of Moody Learning Center with transfer advisers to help with students’ needs and questions.

Other college administrators also spoke at the Hot Potato event.

Lisa Alcorta, interim vice president for student success, said Alamo Advise will provide goals for every student at this college with a designated adviser.

Each of those students has a journey and a unique way of following his or her own path, Vela said. Assessments or exams do not necessarily define intelligence. A whole set of variables defines a student’s role, he said.

Community college is the best first choice, the best second choice and sometimes the best last choice for a student, said Dr. Jothany Blackwood, vice president for academic success

“I had a plan in life. I was a college student and a college dropout,” Blackwood said. “Being a college dropout made me realize that I had the right to rewrite my own story. Wherever I found myself, I knew I could start again.”

When Blackwood went back to college and studied higher education administration, she knew she would be taking on the role to facilitate an environment where students can start over and be anything they want to be.

“The best advice I received when I went back to school not knowing what I wanted to do was from my mother,” Blackwood said. “Do what you love, then find someone to pay you for it.”

Students can discover what they’re good at by exploring all the avenues available at this college.

David Mrizek, vice president of college services, encouraged students to take chances and speak up at this college because it’s their home.

“You never know what’s going to happen and how it’s going to change your life,” Mrizek said. “You see opportunities and you must move toward those doors.”

Vela urged students to reach their goals.

“If you start something, finish it,” Vela said. “You started your journey here at SAC. Complete it.”

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