WKU fall valedictorian also graduated from SKYCTC two years ago
By Jim Turner

Posted on December 27, 2016 10:41 PM

Now that Christmas is over, many families are concentrating on this timely topic: Where should the high school senior or junior in the household go to college? Very few decisions are as crucial as this one in the Big Picture of life.

For almost a decade, I have been convinced that the best avenue to completing a degree and a preparing for a career is to start at a two-year school in the Kentucky Community & Technical College System. For most Logan Countians, the school of choice should be Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College (SKYCTC).

Because of lower costs, smaller class sizes, family atmosphere and multiple conveniences, SKYCTC is an obvious choice for families who don’t have an abundance of money set aside for college and who want their teenager treated as an individual, not a mere face among the masses.

A student can take full loads of courses at SKYCTC for two years at a tuition cost that is less than one year at a four-year university like WKU and most likely less than a semester at some private colleges. By completing an associate degree at SKYCTC, that student can transfer to WKU with all general education requirements met, including not having to take a foreign language. Take a lofty grade point average with him or her, and the SKYCTC graduate can also qualify for a scholarship that will cover most of the cost of a third year of college at Western, even a fourth year.

Also through a Joint Admission agreement between WKU and SKYCTC, a student can live in a dorm at Western and engage in many other activities on The Hill, including being in a fraternity or sorority, while taking classes full-time at SKYCTC.

Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College has six campuses, including three in Bowling Green, one in Franklin and two in Glasgow. There are neither parking fees to pay nor hills to climb.

The problem in choice of colleges for some families—particularly those in which the parents attended four-year colleges—is the fear that the quality of instruction is not on the high level set by universities. I recall a Logan County mother writing on Facebook a couple of years ago that her son had been offered a big scholarship to SKYCTC but she didn’t want him to “go to a technical school.”

Most of us who teach at SKYCTC cringe when educated people call the college “the trade school.” The term “SKY Tech” is also not correct.

What was known as Bowling Green Technical College for decades officially became a junior college a few years ago. SKYCTC now awards hundreds of Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science degrees each year. Those degrees are fully accepted by most four-year universities, including WKU.

Both WKU President Gary Ransdell and Provost David Lee are highly supportive of students spending their first two years at SKYCTC. The percentage of SKYCTC graduates who also graduate from WKU is much higher than that of high school graduates who come to The Hill directly from high school.

A legitimate question ensues: How prepared are community college graduates for their junior and senior years at a university?

That issue was clearly answered this month when Austin Hatfield was recognized as Ogden Foundation Scholar at Western Kentucky University’s fall commencement. The Ogden Scholar is the equivalent of the university’s valedictorian.

Two years ago, this same Austin Hatfield graduated from SKYCTC. Obviously, his two years at the community college in his hometown far more than adequately prepared him for completing his bachelors degree at WKU with a 4.0 grade point average.

Hatfield, a Political Science major and Religious Studies minor from Bowling Green, received WKU’s top academic honor, which is presented to one graduating baccalaureate degree senior who has demonstrated exceptional academic achievement and outstanding university and civic engagement.

The Ogden Scholar presents a valedictory message at commencement. His public speaking course at SKYCTC helped him prepare for that. He encouraged his fellow graduates to be “ready and willing to accept life’s challenge to live among one another striving to do what is right.”

“Today we end our formal education but I stand before you today and say let it not be the end of your education but rather the beginning. The beginning of a journey of lifelong learning,” Hatfield said. “During our time in higher education we have not only learned what is necessary for our degrees but we have learned how to live.”

Hatfield credits a political science course he took at SKYCTC for his interest in going to law school and leading him to an internship with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. Both the SKYCTC course and the internship changed his life, he says.

Hatfield, the son of Donna and John Hatfield, is a 2012 graduate of Greenwood High School and a 2014 graduate of Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College. His wife, Lara, also is a WKU student.

Hatfield also was recognized as a Scholar of Potter College of Arts & Letters. To learn more about him, see Amy Bingham’s feature on a View from the Hill at https://wkunews.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/ogden-foundation-scholar-austin-hatfield/

For details on becoming a student at Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College, contact Director of Admissions Denna White at 270-901-1094 or at Denna.White@kctcs.edu.


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