Kansas has long invested in its local community colleges, recognizing the value of affordable, accessible, and flexible educational opportunities. As we near the end of another semester, it’s important to reflect on the value Kansas’s community colleges offer students, employers, our local communities/regions and the state.

Not surprisingly, 80% of the approximately 110,000 Kansas community college students come from in-state. Some are following the traditional pathway and intend to advance to a four-year institution. Some are working hard to earn a short-term certificate which will quickly provide them skills to receive a good paying job. Others are returning from the workplace for increased skills or embarking on a new career, while others are attending college for the first time.

No matter the path that brings students to us, our community colleges are ready to provide the instruction needed to propel Kansans into their desired professional pathway.

The average cost of Kansas community college tuition and fees for an in-district Kansas resident is about $1,600 per semester compared to the $4,200 average in-state cost per semester at a Kansas public university. Being about three times less expensive helps ensure students leave with as little student debt as possible.

Kansas high school students also have access to a program sometimes referred to as SB 155 or Excel in CTE. This program provides Kansas high school students the opportunity to earn community college credits, while still in high school, in technical education subjects such welding, certified nursing assistants, electrical, HVAC, etc. at no cost to the student! Students interested in pursuing technical education should contact their local community college or high school counselor about available options locally or online.

Completion of these courses while in high school significantly lowers the cost of post-secondary education for families and, provides students a jump start on their career.

The flexibility of programs at Kansas community colleges is also unparalleled. Courses start many different times throughout the year, are varied in length, and are delivered through both in-person and online methods. Kansas community colleges awarded 8,500 Associates Degrees and 6,900 Certificates in 2018.

One of the strengths of Kansas community colleges is the commitment to meeting the needs of local businesses to ensure a workforce trained for 21st century jobs. Spirit Aerosystems, Stanion Wholesale Electric, Tyson Foods, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Evergy, Seaboard Foods, and health systems across the state are just a few of our industry partners. Our 19 colleges boast hundreds of partnerships with local companies of all sizes to ensure a well-trained workforce that can power the Kansas economy.

We strive to meet the needs of local industries and prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow. Our staff and faculty, numbering over 8,000 across the state, work hard to do this cost-effectively, while continuously looking for opportunities to innovate to meet the needs of our students and communities.

We’re proud to celebrate our long history in Kansas communities and invite you to help us spread the word about the benefits of Kansas community colleges. It is my honor to serve as President of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees.

Thank each of you for your support as we vigorously pursue our mission to support students and meet the needs of the Kansas economy.

Michele Hamm is the president of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees.