Community colleges play a number of significant roles in education. One that is growing increasingly important was represented last week in the signing of an agreement between Klamath Community College and Southern Oregon University.
The agreement makes the transfer of credits earned at KCC in as many as 20 "pathways" acceptable at the Ashland university, leading to a four-year bachelor's degree in most of them but also to a master's in business administration.
The KCC courses in the program have to meet SOU standards, but much of the upper two years of SOU coursework can be taken in Klamath Falls online or live, interactive webcasts.
That's a big step for Klamath County, an area that suffers from a chronically weak economy that makes it difficult for high school graduates and parents to pay for higher education, especially if the graduates have to move elsewhere to get it. Their support system is in Klamath County and that's why the number of local links to higher education, and their strength, is vital.
Problems in transferring credits from community college to Oregon's higher education is out of place with the state's ambition to increase the educational level of Oregon adults by 2025 to meet a "40-40-20" goal — 40 percent with a bachelor's degree or better, 40 percent with an associate degree or equivalent or better, and 20 percent with a high school diploma.
Oregon has been struggling to meet those goals, with little progress shown since the 2011 Legislature approved the goal at the request of then-Gov. John Kitzhaber. Most of what change there was, showed a decline. An update in February showed 11 percent of Oregon adults with less than high school, 43 percent with high school diplomas, 16 percent with an associate degree or better, and 30 percent with a bachelor's degree or higher.
But this isn't about reaching a string of figures that make a nice slogan. Improved educational attainment is what Oregon, with the nation's lowest high school graduation rate, needs. Surely eliminating — or at least reducing — barriers between one level of education and another have to be part of it.
It might even be the easiest part of it since it builds on a population of students who have already shown a desire to progress with their education. An easy transition encourages them to do it. The fact it is happening is not just a benefit to local high school graduates, but adds to KCC's attraction for non-local students.
Both schools and their presidents, KCC's Dr. Roberto Gutierrez and SOU's Dr. Roy H. Saigo, deserve credit for accomplishing something that will not only benefit their schools, but their communities.