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ALL SHOOK UP: 'HYBRID' CLASSES, PERSONAL TOUCH AT GERMANNA page 2
Mike Zitz's op-ed column on the future of college education in America.

 Germanna Community College also provides practical workforce education in such areas as automotive training.
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Date published: 10/14/2012

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Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project, said in a statement that some of the experts surveyed "are worried over the adoption of technology-mediated approaches that they fear will lack the personal, face-to-face touch they feel is necessary for effective education. Yet, a share of this group was excited about the possibility to leverage new online capabilities and peer-to-peer collaborations that they believe would enhance knowledge creation and sharing."

A PARADOX

Educators across America are faced with a paradox, said U.S. Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter, a keynote speaker at the recent 2012 Virginia Community College System Chancellor's Planning Retreat.

Funding limitations make change seem risky, she said. But the greatest risk for our students, for our institutions of higher education, and for our nation would be a failure to change, to experiment, to innovate.

"Our biggest battle is the status quo," Kanter said. "I think we can do a lot better. So we're very interested in ideas." For example, she said, one means of increasing completion rates might be issuing Pell Grants for short-term training in high-demand fields.

She noted that there has been much discussion about the need to make higher education more affordable, but that in the process of doing so, quality must be maintained.

It seems likely that community colleges, which typically cost about one-third as much as public four-year colleges and universities, will play an increasingly important role in keeping costs down and making quality higher education and training accessible to millions who are not currently being served. That can be achieved by attending a community college for two years, earning an associate's degree, then transferring to a four-year institution for the next two years and receiving a bachelor's degree there. And it can be accomplished through noncredit workforce training that quickly and inexpensively prepares students to fill jobs that are in demand.

LESS COSTLY ROUTES

This summer, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced a pact between Virginia's Community Colleges, including Germanna, and Western Governors University that creates a shorter, less costly route to a baccalaureate degree for nursing students. The agreement means students may complete a bachelor's degree in three years--two of them at a community college and one online--at a low cost of $17,000 in tuition and fees.


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ALL SHOOK UP: 'HYBRID' CLASSES, PERSONAL TOUCH AT GERMANNA

Michael Zitz is Germanna Community College's director of media and community relations.