Op-Ed

Community college system crown jewel of Ky. higher ed

Jay Box, president of Kentucky Community and Technical College
Jay Box, president of Kentucky Community and Technical College

We are fortunate to have a vibrant, inclusive and affordable community and technical college system that is considered to be a model for the rest of the country.

As the state’s largest provider of higher education, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System of 16 colleges and more than 70 campuses provides access to folks who want to fulfill their dreams of a better life through a college education.

Our local colleges are a major part of their communities and regions, especially when it comes to workforce development. KCTCS is the state’s No. 1 provider of workforce training, serving nearly 6,000 businesses last year.

Running a statewide system of 16 colleges with diverse communities and a multitude of different needs is a big job and takes a person of vision who has exceptional leadership skills. KCTCS is lucky to have such a leader.

President Jay K. Box was hired in January 2015 as the second president of KCTCS. A former community college student, faculty member and president, Box is taking KCTCS into a new era.

KCTCS is now a mature 18-year-old system and must begin to look and act like one. Under his leadership, a new strategic plan has been developed that focuses on:

▪ Raising statewide levels of educational attainment.

▪ Increasing access and success for all students, especially among underserved populations.

▪ Putting an emphasis on experiential or apprenticeship-style learning that leads to jobs.

▪ Improving our services to students.

▪ Aligning our programs with the needs of local business and industry in every corner of Kentucky.

Box also just announced a new dual-credit scholarship for high school juniors. The scholarship will be available this fall and dovetails with the new Kentucky Dual Credit Scholarship, which makes two dual credit classes available to Kentucky public high school students.

Working with the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, KCTCS is helping fulfill Gov. Matt Bevin’s goal of high school students graduating with at least nine hours of postsecondary credit.

Good changes are ahead.

It’s important for KCTCS to be good stewards of our funds, and the Board of Regents is making some changes. New contracts, including Box’s, no longer include vacation payouts to leaders when they leave. Additionally, although Box successfully accomplished his goals and objectives for the first 16 months in his new role as president, he refused a raise because we could not afford to give one to faculty and staff.

My hope is that Kentuckians know they can count on the colleges and leadership of KCTCS to help them achieve their dreams. Whether that dream is to quickly earn a credential and go to work or transfer to one of our four-year partners, KCTCS is here for students. It is the crown jewel of higher education in Kentucky.

Marcia Roth of Louisville is chair of the Board of Regents of Kentucky Community and Technical College.

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