Grand Island may not have the college “campus life” experience so many wish we did, but there are numerous options available to those in the area who want to pursue a college education. And those options are evolving and expanding, which is good news.
Most are familiar with Central Community College (CCC) who has been providing certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees in Grand Island since 1976. Over the years CCC has expanded and adapted to our changing workforce needs.
Many CCC courses can be transferred to 4-year colleges, which includes Bellevue University who has been serving area students from CCC’s Grand Island campus for nearly 30 years.
In recent years, Wayne State College reached out to connect more deeply with Grand Island students. This includes dual-credit offerings to college-bound high school students giving them a head start on their college journey.
Beyond high school, Wayne State College has enacted a significant local internship initiative with funding from Grow Grand Island to connect college students with Grand Island area employers. Many interns are eventually hired, providing our businesses with the high-skill, high-wage workers we need.
Last month, University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) announced a renewed commitment to the Grand Island area. UNK served as an anchor institution for College Park when it opened in 1992. They made the decision to pull back after several years but have returned with a bigger vision. They plan to leverage educational resources with both in-person and virtual learning to enrich the student experience. They are focusing on degree options geared toward meeting local workforce demands.
Rather than viewing all of these opportunities singularly, what if we connected the dots and created our own collective local big picture that illustrates our unique and diverse opportunities and how they can lead to career success? This may consist of Industry-specific roadmaps that connect high school to college to careers right here at home. It may consist of a localized messaging that illustrates how college can fit into working lifestyles and open doors to advancement.
Whatever the approach, it is about leveraging what we have. Having a skilled and educated workforce is an essential for Grand Island to thrive and grow.
Our message to anyone in the Grand Island area seeking to pursue a college education should be “don’t overlook your own backyard when making your education decisions, and don’t overlook your hometown when making your career decisions.” We have more opportunity here than meets the eye.
Tonja Brown is the implementation chair for Grow Grand Island Area Partnership. Grow Grand Island was established as a partnership involving the city, county, Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Economic Development Corp. to develop and implement an ongoing, dynamic strategic plan to guide community growth and prosperity.
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