Higher education topic of Rotella fireside chat

The meeting was the first in a series of “Fireside Chats.” During the evening the topic of discussion was how public and private institutions can work together to serve the students of the Riverside area in pursuing and, above all, completing their goals for higher education.

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By Robert Record

By Robert Record

Fitting of the day – the birthday of John Dewey, a pioneer in education – RCC President Salvatore Rotella and Dr. Lawrence Garity sat down to discuss matters concerning higher education.

The meeting was the first in a series of “Fireside Chats.” During the evening the topic of discussion was how public and private institutions can work together to serve the students of the Riverside area in pursuing and, above all, completing their goals for higher education.

Rotella said that “college is the quintessence of American education” and that the undergraduate degree was the critical key for students in college. Rotella stressed the importance of students transferring to four-year institutions to complete their undergraduate education.

Rotella claimed that the purpose of a four-year education is to “open the mind” via a broad exposure to the liberal arts and sciences and to provide “an introduction to the major.” He said the graduate programs are for the development of specific skills.

He spoke at length about the disconnect or “silence” between two-year colleges and four-year colleges.

Garity added to the discussion about the divide between two- and four-year colleges, specifically those such as La Sierra.

Rotella said that the key to leading students from two-year education to four-year education is the faculty.

“A good teacher can lead a student from two- to four-year education,” Rotella said.

He commented further by saying many students discover places to transfer based upon the institutions that their professors went to.

Being that many of the Riverside area four-year institutions are private schools, much talk occurred on the subject.

“California does not have a tradition of, or acquaintance with, private institutions,” Rotella said.

One reason that many students don’t transfer to private institutions is the cost of tuition, according to Garity.

“The price posted is not usually the price students actually pay,” Garity said, referring to the large proportion of students at La Sierra who do not pay full tuition.

Garity discussed the money available to students who wish to attend private universities.

“If the students are committed, money can be found,” he said.

The term “packaged” was used to describe the personal and unique financial assistance programs that counselors can help each studentmake.

“Students should not have to pay for complexity,” said Garity.

A point of disagreement between the two speakers was the reason that most students transfer to either a UC or CSU versus a private college.

Garity remarked he felt that “counselors are on autopilot” in sending students to state universities only.

Rotella refuted by claiming that students simply do not know they have other choices.

“If the students knew, more would go to private institutions,” he said.

During the discussion on how public and private colleges can work together to serve the Riverside area, the similarities and differences between RCC and LSU were discussed.

Rotella began the night by stating how the institution of the community college came to be; the transformation from junior colleges to community colleges:

“We are junior to no one,” he said.

He explained the enormously difficult task of a community college, a facility that must serve the broad educational needs of a community, primarily the balance between education for the workforce and fulfilling the first two years of college for transfer students.

Garity then began by fairly evaluating the similarities between the two schools.

He discussed the common ground of shared faculty; discussion attendees laughed at the remark, many of them being faculty from both institutions.

The differences were then brought forth and summarized that La Sierra provides more personalized attention for students with high quality faculty.

However, Garity admitted that the influence of La Sierra is moderate and has a limited selection of programs.

The overall consensus of the night was that RCC needs to work on encouraging students to complete their undergraduate education and utilize Riverside area resources like La Sierra University and Cal Baptist University to help more students reach these goals.

The future looks to hold more discussion and teamwork between area institutions of higher education with the ultimate goal of placing degrees in the hands of many more students.

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