A Student-Led Initiative to Support Community Colleges
Declines in the college-going population is everyone’s problem. As a nation, we are facing an increased need for a skilled, trained workforce while simultaneously facing decreased student participation in college. Decreased participation in public open-access community colleges ultimately means that fewer underrepresented students are in the education pipeline—widening an already wide economic race gap and lessening the chances of economic mobility for all low-income students. And we know that good jobs—the ones with better pay, health insurance, and other benefits—require post-secondary education degrees and credentials, and the more of those, the better.
While college cost may be top of mind when it comes to college access, enrollment declines at two-year colleges show it isn’t the only factor affecting a person’s decision to attend college. Recent studies have determined community college stigma to be a top factor in a person’s college decision. In fact, it was as significant as other factors such as college cost, types of degree programs, academic achievements, personal aspirations, and the influence of parents and family.
The CCsmart Strategy
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society’s 2021-2022 student leadership team, a group of five peer-elected students from across the nation, decided as part of their work to address community college stigma. But true to the mission of Phi Theta Kappa, they did not want to use the negative word “stigma” as part of their campaign—they wanted to focus on the positive aspects of these colleges—the opportunities found there and what community college had done for them and for students like them. They developed CCsmart or Community College Smart as an awareness campaign of national scope. The goal of the effort is to change the conversation about community colleges, promote student-led advocacy of community colleges, and provide reliable information to the public about community college opportunities—making the choice to go there a smart start to your career and your life.
About Phi Theta Kappa
Established in 1918, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) is made up of more than 3.75 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 nations, with approximately 225,000 active members and 3,100 advisors. PTK is recognized as the official honor society for associate degree-granting colleges by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). PTK provides recognition to high-achieving college students and is the nation’s largest source of scholarships for students attending two-year colleges by awarding over $246 million in transfer scholarships through its 843 four-year college and university partners. PTK also awards over $1.5 million annually in competitive scholarships through its endowments, corporate partners, and donors. PTK’s members have a 91% student success rate, and this is true across all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. PTK offers programs for students to improve their success both personally and professionally through leadership development, team-building experiences, service learning, and courses that teach advocacy, life skills, transfer process, and career preparation. Learn more at ptk.org.