Congratulations to the class of 2016

College graduates throw their caps into the air as they celebrate their graduation

Courtesy | Tribune News Service

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. You are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

– Dr. Seuss

Today is the day, the last day of the semester. By now, students have completed final projects, final exams, and instructors are calculating final grades. While some will be walking in a few weeks, donning a cap and gown, others are preparing for the next semester, the next job, the next step of their lives.

But what have we all had in common? Taking that next step in our education. Washtenaw Community College offers the opportunities for people to brush up on skills, learn new ones, and obtain degrees.

There are 1,788 graduates, some of which are receiving associate degrees, certificates, or even both. In a recent PBS study about college completion, approximately 40 percent of Americans have at least a two-year degree. While that may not seem like a high percentage, it’s one of the highest rates of degree attainment the country has seen. However, college isn’t for everyone and those who do go find themselves there for numerous reasons. Sometimes having a piece of paper isn’t enough, and on-the-job training is essential.

Everyone should leave this year with pride for their accomplishments. Going to school, along with other commitments, isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t cheap. The obstacles some students have to face to get an education is obscene, while we all hope it’s worth it.

During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address in January, he said he asked Vice President Joe Biden to “lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.”

WCC offers multiple ways for students to get the experience they need, while also getting a degree. The college has state of the art equipment in its automotive and advanced manufacturing departments, among others. Students in performing arts and digital media have opportunities to showcase their talents throughout the academic year. Garrett’s, the student-run restaurant, provides real-life dining and culinary experiences — and these are to just name a few of the areas where WCC strives to make sure that the students it serves are as prepared as possible for the workforce. Obama also stated that through his higher education reform, he even wants to connect companies with community colleges to ensure that the training correlates with specific needs.

As a community college student, WCC’s low tuition relieves some of the pressure of looming student debt that could be on their horizons. While student debt is an unavoidable problem, choosing a community college is one of the most fiscally responsible decisions today’s students can make.

At WCC, attending school doesn’t hit students in the wallet, however, in continued education, student debt isn’t yet avoidable. There’s no easy answer, but one thing is for sure; if you want to continue your education and obtain a bachelor’s, master’s, etc. don’t let the fear of money stop you.

Yes, it can be scary not knowing exactly how to pay for college right away, but don’t give up on your dream of being that doctor or that lawyer, maybe that teacher, or that engineer. Once you reach your goal or your dream job, money won’t seem like such a big deal. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but just know that it’s there.

You’ve already made that first step – going to college. For those of you graduating later this month, congratulations. For those of you continuing your education and exploring options and new interests, congratulations to you as well. Here’s to higher education and to the class of 2016.

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