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Anderson County will be presented with an opportunity over the next couple years to clog up the drain and prevent its brains from slipping away into other areas. This is an opportunity the county should fully embrace.
As a story on this week’s front page points out, the Lawrenceburg campus of Bluegrass Community and Technical College has seen a 46 percent increase in enrollment in the past year. Around 800 students are enrolled at the campus.
As the story also says, those students are of all ages — from 16 to 83, says Campus Liaison Rhonda Wheeler.
While all 800 students aren’t only seeking two-year degrees (some of them will undoubtedly go on to four-year universities and some of them will complete certificate or diploma programs in less than two years), a rather sizable addition to the workforce will be available over the course of that two-year time frame.
And this isn’t just any addition to the workforce. It’s a college-educated addition with knowledge in areas from nursing to medical emergencies to early childhood education to construction.
Researchers Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas recently reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education that one way to prevent “brain drain” — which is defined as the movement of educated people from smaller areas with less economic opportunity to larger areas with more economic opportunity — is to encourage students who don’t plan on attending four-year universities to take an interest in vocational training and associate degree programs.
“The single-minded focus on pushing the most motivated students into four-year colleges must be balanced by efforts to match young people not headed for bachelor’s degrees with training, vocational, and assorted associate-degree programs,” Carr and Kefalas report.
Although their report centers mainly on the younger student population, it still applies.
By the looks of things, Anderson County has already done this, and normally that would mean the county is ahead of the curve. But the real question is, when these students graduate and receive their degrees and diplomas, where are they going to work?
Sure there will be local opportunities for some of the graduates, but as the college’s enrollment continues to grow — campus officials estimate numbers could top 1,000 next year — the local opportunities need to grow as well in order to keep that knowledge in the community.
A troubled economy is being cited as one of the reasons for high enrollment numbers. Those who have lost jobs are seeking an education to better themselves and better the community in which they decide to work.
We would be doing them a favor, and even more so, doing our county a favor by taking every step possible to see economic development and bring industry and business to Anderson County.
If we don’t, our brains will be draining to counties that do.