Education for the 80% – Goodwin College’s Place in Higher Education
By Mark Scheinberg
President of Goodwin College
As a young institution in the heart of New England’s “Knowledge Corridor,” Goodwin College’s very existence naturally provokes some questions. What are we seeking to bring to the higher education landscape that is different from our fellow nonprofit independent colleges? Why get into the higher education space to begin with, when Connecticut already hosts some of the nation’s best colleges and universities?
While Connecticut has one of the country’s highest college completion rates — 43 percent of those over 25 hold an Associate degree or higher according to the U.S. Census Bureau — that leaves almost 6 in 10 state residents who have not achieved this ever-more-important credential.
Even more striking, in our neighboring community of Hartford, the college completion rate is less than half the state average, at just 19.3 percent. In East Hartford, 26 percent have completed college. We can do better than this, and Goodwin College is committed to serving those individuals — representing the majority of the region’s adult residents — who have not yet found a path to higher education from among the established options.
As a nonprofit institution, our first priority is to serve our students, providing them with the education, training, and skills that they will need to succeed in the workforce. Our program offerings are developed with the real world in mind. To us, a college education is not limited to the Liberal Arts, but to all disciplines where people of any background can learn to support themselves and their families in desirable careers.
Not everyone aspires for the “traditional” four-year liberal arts model. Some could benefit greatly from technical training at the secondary level, but sadly, many high schools have slashed the technical programs — areas like machining, wood shop, and drafting that can lead to careers for students.
Goodwin fills a niche for these “undiscovered students,” those who wish to continue their education and learn new skills in a supportive environment that helps them efficiently meet their education and career goals.
We help students find careers in jobs that are in demand. It is a mission that is part of our institutional DNA. If 80 percent of graduates from a given program are not working within 90 days of getting their certificates or diplomas, we examine those programs and decide what changes are necessary to improve.
One of our newest endeavors involves manufacturing, once a pillar of the local economy and still a driver in today’s job market. Our hometown of East Hartford was built in the proud New England manufacturing tradition, where workers used their hands as well as their heads to make a good living.
A new generation of workers is waiting outside the gate to take their places on idle shop floors, if only they were equipped with today’s technological knowhow. With the support of Congressman John Larson, Goodwin is pressing forward with new programs in manufacturing to provide high-quality training and credentials to these professionals.
While we will take every opportunity to trumpet the importance of job readiness, and we do not shy away from promoting our record as a leader in career-focused education, we also do not intend to diminish the value of the traditional liberal arts model — for those students for whom it is the best fit. Nor do we question the role of career training schools that are themselves teaching valuable, real-world skills to those who might not have thrived in other academic settings.
Instead, we are a keen student of both approaches, seeking to take some of the best aspects from the traditional model, as well as from vocational training model, and striving to graduate students who know how to think critically, communicate well, and perform the technical tasks that the jobs of today and tomorrow will require.
In our view, this approach is the key to reaching the 80 percent of Hartford residents (and 74 percent of East Hartford residents), who may find themselves at odds with the rapidly changing economy because they lack a collegiate credential.