Obama Visit Validates Higher Education | Lackawanna College

President Volk

Obama visit validates College’s role in higher ed

Mark Volk President, Lackawanna College

Dear Friends,

Echoing the sentiments of Urica Carver, the 2013 graduate who introduced Vice President Biden, today’s college students have competing demands on their time and resources, and they seek educational opportunities that are high quality, flexible, and affordable. I am proud that Lackawanna College exceeded Urica’s needs – just as we have met or exceeded the needs of our 80% local student body. Our students truly are the future professionals of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and we take seriously our obligation to provide them with affordable educational opportunities, a first-rate faculty, and a variety of support services to keep them on track.

When President Obama mentioned the need to emphasize college accessibility, affordability and outcomes, I found myself and saw many college faculty and staff nodding; we live this mission each day. As an open-enrollment institution, we are deeply committed to our identity as a college of opportunity for students of all backgrounds, and as part of that mission, we see it as our ethical imperative to keep tuition affordable. Notably, our $12,480 tuition is the lowest in Lackawanna County. Related to outcomes, we are proud to have one of the highest graduation rates in the Commonwealth for two-year colleges and are equally proud of putting graduates right to work at family-sustaining wages in our many specialty programs.

Last week marked a historic moment for Lackawanna College. Although Presidents have visited Scranton with some frequency, this was just the 3rd time a sitting president visited our city to address the nation on a policy issue. In an even rarer occurrence outside of Washington, D.C., the Vice President joined the President and also gave remarks. The significance of a Presidential visit became clear as individuals began to get in line ten hours before the scheduled start of ticket distribution. More interesting than the length of the line was its composition. Scrantonians, along with people of all ages and types from around the region and nation, all wanted to see and hear Mr. Obama’s thoughts on making higher education affordable and attainable. That was a testament to the profound importance of this topic.

In the aftermath of the visit, I reflected on my personal good fortune to lead an amazing college that truly changes the lives of so many students for whom higher education might not otherwise have been a reality. Financial challenges, socioeconomic status, and past academic record serve as barriers to many motivated students seeking a college education, and our remarkable faculty and staff work hard to alleviate those barriers each day. Lackawanna College’s responsibility – and on a more personal note – my responsibility is to continue ensuring the people of Scranton and beyond have access to an excellent, yet affordable, education. To hear the President of the United States reflect those exact sentiments was, without a doubt, humbling and inspiring.

On behalf of everyone at Lackawanna College, I would like to express my thanks to President Obama and Vice President Biden for visiting our campus and encouraging our students to succeed. I must also thank the City of Scranton for all of the hard work provided for the visit. As an institution, we could not be more proud of the President’s validation and recognition of our efforts. Lackawanna College is The New American Model for Higher Education.

Very truly yours,

Mark Volk
Lackawanna College

This commentary also appeared in the Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 edition of The Times-Tribune.