Jeff State will aid area economy

Published 6:25 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2008

By now, everyone knows Jefferson State Community College is building a campus here in Clanton – if you haven’t read about it in The Clanton Advertiser, then you’ve surely seen the construction beside Lay Dam Road – but what will the presence of a community college in Chilton County really mean for its residents?

Sure, high school graduates in the county will have a much shorter trip than to, say, Wallace State Community College in Selma. Jeff State also will likely aid the county’s economy by bringing more people in to study, teach, and perform the other necessary tasks that keep an institute of higher education operating.

But Jeff State could play a much bigger role than it seems on the surface, because gone are the days when community colleges were simply the place for students that need remedial help before going to a larger school. Community colleges train 80 percent of the country’s police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians and more than half of its new nurses and health care workers, according to a story in USA Today. And because so many high school graduates are going on to college careers these days, community colleges are being forced to become a way for our country to keep up with other industrialized nations.

“This is really a turning point,” Travis Reindl of Jobs for the Future, a Boston non-profit focused on education and the workforce, told USA Today. “Some kind of education beyond high school is becoming a universal expectation.”

As more and more county graduates go to community college, more acquire the skills they need to become valuable parts of the workforce. And, as more and more of these people stay in Chilton County to go to school, more will remain in the county even after they are employed. When companies see that there is a larger pool of qualified workers in an area, they are much more likely to locate there.

Jeff State will be a valuable asset to Chilton County, just as community colleges in general are already valuable assets to our country.