College system marks its 20th anniversary
The Louisiana Community & Technical College System is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, and it has many reasons to be marking the occasion. The Council for a Better Louisiana said the system has lived up to the vision that many had when it was created by establishing a strong postsecondary presence in every region of the state.
Sowela Technical Community College in Lake Charles is a shining example of how far the system has come. It ranks as one of the best community-technical colleges in the country. Dr. Monty Sullivan, president of the system, has been a dynamic leader and strong spokesman for its thousands of employees and students.
Gov. Mike Foster was responsible for pushing creation of the system, and he was its most vocal supporter. It could be his greatest legacy.
CABL said when the system was created Louisiana had 13 four-year schools under the state Board of Regents, seven two-year schools managed by a hodgepodge of universities or agencies and 44 technical schools run by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Today, the system has seven community colleges, four technical-community colleges and dozens of smaller campuses across every region of the state.
The numbers are astounding. Since the system was created it has enrolled more than 2.1 million students, including 150,000 last year in both community and technical colleges. CABL said in 2017-18 more than 24,000 students graduated from a two-year college and 80 percent of them had a credential for high-demand, high-income jobs.
Graduates, on average, earn about $40,000 a year, but those in high-demand fields are making $55,000 annually.
Max Jordan of Lafayette, a former state senator, was the prime sponsor of the Senate concurrent resolution at the 1997 legislative session that called for the Board of Regents to study creation of a community college system. Jay Dardenne, the current state commissioner of education, was the state senator who sponsored Senate Bill 1 at a 1998 special session that established a constitutional amendment setting up the system.
Our congratulations to Foster and the other visionaries in 1997 and 1998 that helped give young and old in this state a great opportunity to earn a decent living and become contributing members of their communities.