Kansas 1st District US Representative Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) visited with Neosho County Community College president Brian Inbody on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the challenges community colleges are facing today.
Marshall, who is vying to replace retiring US Senator Pat Roberts (R-Dodge City) is fresh off receiving an endorsement from Bob Dole.
Inbody said his top three challenges are the “The Pell Grant, the Pell Grant and the Pell Grant. It is the lifeblood of our university.”
Unlike loans, Pell Grants do not need to be paid back.
Just last year, it was announced that student loan debt had surpassed $1.5 trillion nationwide.
“Student loans are a choice. Attending a community college makes sense financially. You can go to school for two years and transfer debt free. I always try to talk students out of taking student loans,” he said. “Instead of going to work after two years and buying that new refrigerator, raising a family and contributing to the economy, they choose to pay Sallie Mae.”
Marshall said representatives from colleges have come through his office wanting to raise the amount of money the federal government can give out for student loans.
“I just want to reach across the desk and grab them because if a kid needs the ability to borrow more than $26,000 a year, then I am really concerned,” Marshall said.
Inbody said there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a single parent of two kids who needs assistance receive a Pell Grant – and two years down the road, that parent is working as a Registered Nurse making $50,000 a year.
“These students are pulling themselves up by the bootstraps; they just need the bootstraps,” Inbody said.
Marshall seemingly agreed.
“This is the American Dream. It’s going from welfare to work, which is what th e right way is,” he said. “And when a parent goes to college, their child is more likely to go to college and it starts trending in the right direction.”
Inbody said the college boasts a 67 percent success rate — students who graduate with a two-year degree, or transfer to other institutions — despite receiving the third least funding for community colleges in the state.
Technical degrees make up 52 percent of the school’s diplomas handed out each year.
Inbody said students who receive technical degrees make more money than graduates of four-year institutions in their first year out of college.
“We have nurses leaving making $50,000 a year, the signing bonuses are still incredible. Welders, HVAC, all of these programs make great starting wages. The salary for a graduate from a four-year school would start to earn more than a technical student after five years,” Inbody said.
The reason for this is four-year degree holders often do not start out in the field for which they studied.
Inbody said the overall pay rate for a graduate from NCCC is $37,000, which is also higher than four-year graduates in their first year.