Rep. Kevin Yoder visits JCCC

October 20, 2015

College and school district leaders discuss challenges ahead

Schools and colleges are doing many things right but low-income students still need more help to be successful, according to educators who gathered Monday at Johnson County Community College.

During an education roundtable organized by U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas, leaders from area school districts and colleges touched on how best to prepare students for today’s jobs and how to ready all students to become productive workers in the future.

Yoder told the group of 20 or so that he had invited them to attend his 3rd Congressional District Education Advisory Committee to get a better sense of the issues in higher education that he should be focusing on.

“What are we hearing on our campuses?” Yoder asked.  “What are the challenges the students are facing? What role does Congress play? How can we be most helpful or stop being as hurtful in our efforts to make sure we are full-fledged partners?”

Partnerships among schools and colleges and programs such as College Now, which allow high school students to earn college credit, were seen as bright spots. But the rising cost of college and the continuing need for remedial education for college freshmen were viewed as stubborn challenges.

Bernard Franklin, director of university programs at Shawnee Mission School District and Kansas State University vice president for student life, said that he works with high school sophomores and juniors to prepare them for the ACT test.

“We have huge challenges,” Franklin said, “as we try to anticipate how to right a ship and create a space where our most vulnerable people can be successful.”

JCCC President Joe Sopcich said that JCCC was fortunate to have trustees who believe in supporting remedial education.

"We like to describe it as we are in the hope business,” Sopcich said. “We provide hope for students to get an opportunity to move to the next level.”

The discussion was moderated by Susan Keim, director of operational leadership at Donnelly College. Featured panelists were David Cook, vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Edwards Campus, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College, Shawnee Mission’s Franklin and JCCC’s Sopcich.

Yoder suggested that the group might meet again and focus more on specific issues.