Jim Clinton, the Executive Director of Cenla Advantage Partnership, has a reason to celebrate. After years of championing the need for a true community college, a recent report by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems titled “An Assessment of Community College Needs in Central Louisiana” clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that Central Louisiana is severely underserved and desperately needs a community college.

On its surface, that may not sound like good news, but as Jim Clinton writes today on his blog, there is a reason to celebrate.

Among other things, the new report says, “Central Louisiana is the most underserved region of the state with regard to provision of community college services.” It could have said that we are one of the most underserved regions in the nation with accuracy as well.

More importantly, the report makes a series of recommendations that when implemented could change the landscape of Central Louisiana forever.

The report recommends “…creation of a technical community college in the Alexandria region.” It says that the college should be serve as the “…single front door” for community college services for students and employers. It goes on to prescribe the kinds of services that should be offered through the new entity.

A question that often arises on this subject is, “Didn’t LSUA used to be a community college?” Since LSUA’s status as a four-year institution is a relatively recent phenomenon, this is a perfectly normal question. However, the answer is “no.” LSUA was a two-year college, but it was never the kind of comprehensive community and technical institution that is envisioned by “Beyond High School” or in the new recommendations.  A comprehensive community and technical college in Central Louisiana is a game-changer for us, a landmark event.

It fills a gaping hole in Central Louisiana and it does so within a system that is constitutionally mandated to provide such services. As we look at building a real knowledge platform for the citizens, businesses and institutions of Central Louisiana, the addition of the technical community college is exactly what is called for at this point in our history.

It is astonishingly good news for the region. As “Beyond High School” demonstrated, the greatest opportunity for job creation in the region for the next decade will be in jobs requiring more than a high school education and less than a four-year diploma. It is specifically that arena in which the region is so underserved, and it is specifically that market that the new institution will serve.

The result will be investment, jobs, higher levels of knowledge, higher levels of pay, and new wealth creation for our region.

And here’s what is most promising (bold mine):

The report will now go on to the Louisiana Board of Regents for its consideration. Because of the way the report recommends using existing institutional resources to pave the way on implementation, we could be looking forward to the commencement of classes before the year is out.

Kudos to Mr. Clinton and to all of the local leaders who have championed this project. He’s right: This is astonishingly good news.

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