Community leaders share need with higher education officials
A community college could be on the horizon for Minden. Community leaders met for a roundtable discussion Thursday with Commissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Kim Hunter Reed and showed support for developing Northwest Louisiana Technical College into a community college.
“This group today represents the right people to make something happen. All we’re asking is to move the position we’re in today as a technical college. We’re asking to elevate our standards,” James Madden said.
“There’s a few changes we’ve got to make. Senator [Ryan] Gatti and I are working on legislation now,” State Representative Wayne McMahen said, “We feel like we’ve got a good chance, there’s not going to be any money attached to it. It’s a physical mutual bill. If we get that done I think we’ll be looking forward to the next ten years supporting our community and educating our kids.”
“Our biggest problem in my rural areas and my poor district is, folks are moving out. When we ask those 20-40 year olds who are upwardly mobile, why’d you leave? They say, for opportunities that I couldn’t get back home,” State Senator Ryan Gatti said.
Currently credits earned at the technical college cannot be transferred to a four year institution to attain a bachelor’s degree.
“With this change it’s going to allow the local students to stay local,” Gatti said.
“As of right now I’ve got 22 open nursing positions,” CEO of Minden Medical Center, Greg Pearson said referring to the need for an educated workforce. Pearson explained the Medical Center has a program to pay for the transition from LPN to RN if nurses make a commitment to work at Minden Medical Center for two years.
“Whether it’s LPN to RN track or instrumentation to engineer track or English to CEO, whatever it needs to be, we really need that here in this community,” Gatti said.
Darden Gladney of Glenbrook School spoke of allowing students as young as sophomores in high school to work with the dual enrollment program which allows students to take college courses while still enrolled in high school. Northwestern State University allows students as young as sophomores in high school to take courses if they have the necessary ACT scores.
“If we had that right here in our community, we could work better and even younger students could take advantage of that. We’ve been doing dual enrollment with this campus for a long time. If we could do it like that, it would be even better”, Gladney said.
Assistant Superintendent for Webster Parish Schools, Kevin Washington spoke about the benefits of the Jumpstart program which is also a dual enrollment program.
“The biggest barrier to selling the program when we have students sitting in front of us, they ask, ‘Will the credits that I earn be able to go with me,’” Washington said, “If we can fix that I think you’re going to have a very marketable institution.”