President Obama’s $12 billion proposal presents opportunities, challenges


By Dr. Thomas Isekenegbe, Interim President

I am honored and privileged to serve as Cumberland County College’s Interim President through June 30, as the college conducts a national search for a new President.

CCC has a rich, 43-year history of providing opportunities for thousands of residents to better their lives through higher education. And over the years, our graduates have improved life for all of us by working in essential professions and serving as community leaders.

I have seen many positive changes at CCC and in the community college sector since I began as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Enrollment Services in 2002. Nationally and at CCC, we’ve experienced enrollment growth year after year. At CCC, many new academic programs were introduced and new buildings were constructed on campus including the George Luciano Family Conference Center, the Shirlee and Bernard Brown University Center and the Paul Navone Healthcare Education Center.

We’re proud of our past; but Cumberland - along with the entire community college sector - is beginning the most exciting era in our history.

President Obama recently proposed for Congress to allocate an additional $12 billion for community colleges to implement new programs and build and renovate facilities, among other initiatives. Mr. Obama has also called on the nation’s community colleges to produce 5 million more graduates by the year 2020.

In announcing the proposal at Macomb Community College near Detroit, President Obama said: “Jobs requiring at least an associate’s degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience. We will not fill those jobs, or keep those jobs on our shores, without the training offered by community colleges.”

We certainly agree with the President, and CCC is anxious to apply for this federal funding when it becomes available. Our goal is to provide even more opportunities for residents as we move forward in the 21st century.

Some areas in our plan include implementing credit and non-credit programs to train students for in-demand careers in renewable-energy technology such as harnessing solar, geothermal and wind power. We also plan to build more labs to support the college’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs, which prepare students for high-growth careers.

We want to expand the University Center, adding student support services and more classrooms. We plan to increase the efficiency of heating and cooling the campus buildings by utilizing solar panels and underground geothermal systems, which will also serve as learning laboratories for students. And CCC will present other initiatives in response to President Obama’s proposal.

Yes, this is certainly a time of transition for our college, our community and our country. But I am confident that we will meet our challenges, seize our opportunities and flourish in the future.

Once again, it’s a privilege to serve as the leader of this outstanding community college during the next year.