EDITORIAL: Community college, supporters should press ahead with improvements

Student leaders at Treasure Valley Community College listen to presentations at the March 16 town hall. (Malheur Enterprise/John Braese)

Treasure Valley Community College and the community both have work to do following last week’s Town Hall. Let’s harness the energy from that night before it fades.

A dynamic crowd showed up for the Town Hall. That alone signals broad interest in the future of the college and where it fits into the future of the county.

More impressive was the caliber of comment. The college’s own student leaders made some of the most eloquent statements of the night. But there were respectful and thought-provoking comments from business leaders, parents, alumni and others.

Some key points were made, and several revolved around the college and its reputation. That turns on several aspects. Marketing is one. TVCC is not as dominant an education leader as it could be in the region. And it needs to boost its reputation for the kind of education it can offer. That requires not only better marketing but sharper attention to ensure the classes offered fit the needs of those who pay the tuition.

The Small Business Development Center was praised. College officials should build on that success. Clearly, the center is offering what local people and businesses need. What will it take to serve more and offer more?

Another opportunity appears to be in not forgetting older students. The graying of America is fact. The college should plan for the surge in seniors and attend to their needs. Many, after all, have the ability to pay tuition and likely would gladly do so for classes that suit them. And this could be an important segment to help stabilize TVCC’s enrollment. Seniors aren’t looking for jobs. They’re looking for fulfilling experiences.

The community has assignments, too.

Student housing emerged as a need. There is too little available to college students and apparently much of what is available is costly. That sure would deter someone from picking TVCC as a place to go to school. Community leaders should take the lead to focus on that specific, but essential, need.

The community needs to reach out more to the students themselves. That was clear from the thoughtful comments of the student leaders. They want to be part of the community. They want to work in the community. And they want to play in the community. Let’s partner those student leaders with recreation and service organizations to figure out how to break down any invisible walls between students and local residents. Again, this would only enhance the appeal of TVCC to potential students.

If any overriding theme emerged at the Town Hall, it is that the community and the college need to have stronger ties. Someone noted that in many college towns, you can’t go a block without finding some sign there is a campus nearby. In Malheur County, good luck finding clues to TVCC. That’s a marketing need, but it’s also a community pride need. If we want a strong community college, let’s show we’re serious and as prideful in our school as other communities are in theirs.

None of this will happen next week or next month. But weave these concepts together and they provide good ideas of how to strengthen TVCC now and, more importantly, for the future. To get there, TVCC leaders and staff have to demonstrate a willingness to be more open to the community and more engaged – meaningfully engaged – with the community.

For those in the community, it means showing more curiosity about what’s happening over on College Boulevard and asking how to help.

This is a partnership that needs nurturing, and the Town Hall opened the door. Let no one be reluctant to walk through. – LZ