GCCC honored as Outstanding College of the Year by RCCA

From left: Dr. Herbert J. Swender, GCCC President, and Dr. R. Frank Mensel, Senior Fellow, Education Policy Center
From left: Dr. Herbert J. Swender, GCCC President, and Dr. R. Frank Mensel, Senior Fellow, Education Policy Center

Garden City Community College was recently named Outstanding College of the Year for 2014 by the Rural Community College Alliance. The award was presented to Dr. Herbert J. Swender, GCCC President, June 13 in Garden City during a statewide meeting of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees (KACCT).

GCCC, the conference host, was honored for its initiative in launching the studies that the Education Policy Center (EPC) of the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa has been conducting on Pell Grant enrollment in rural community colleges. The EPC, under the direction of Dr. Stephen G. Katsinas, is leading the studies and publishing the analysis.

Among these studies, now drawing in nine states, findings show that the typical rural college has half or more of its students earning college credit on Pell Grants. President Swender reports that Pell carries more than two-thirds of its students.

“As president of a rural serving community college, I believe it is imperative to understand the significance of the Pell Grant as our nation’s greatest portal to higher education,” Swender said. “As a lifelong educator serving more than 30 years at four different rural colleges in Kansas and Texas, it is obvious to me that access for women, and the driving force for rural higher learning institutions, comes from America’s Pell Grants.”

The inaugural award was presented by Dr. Frank Mensel, RCCA Ambassador-at-Large. Mensel, who is also a Senior Fellow with EPC, designed the original study and is recognized along with the late Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island as an architect of the Pell Grant, enacted by congress more than four decades ago.

“These studies show that Pell Grants are the lifeblood of rural colleges,” said Mensel, “and the largest engine of workforce development, the American dream, and the middle class of the future.”

The RCCA is the primary advocacy group that helps to advance its 600 member community colleges and improve the educational and economic outlook for rural America. The organization’s active network convenes stakeholders, leverages resources, and acts as a clearinghouse for best practices and research.