From the President: 2020 Year in Review
January 29, 2021
A year ago, I wrote a column for the Tahoe Daily Tribune about how Lake Tahoe Community
College began 2020 on an historic rise. Measure F bond monies were vastly improving our classrooms and campus, enrollment was up, our
Lake Tahoe College Promise program expanded to provide up to three years tuition-free, and successful grant efforts
were bringing in even more dollars to expand crucial services and provide vital support
to our students. Many of these positives still exist, and more have been added, but
just about everything else has changed.
LTCC started 2020 full of promise for our students and community. Then, we shut down
in the face of a global pandemic in mid-March and had to quickly scramble to continue
the business of providing education in our new, remote world. Then, we stood witness
to the murder of George Floyd and joined a chorus of rising voices demanding social
justice and institutional change for our nation, and most importantly in our own backyard.
We all saw the pandemic increasingly and horribly affect our community’s economic
outlook and availability of jobs. And just as the pandemic’s negative effects peaked,
we watched as our government came under attack and our democracy was challenged in
a way we’ve never seen before.
The Role of Higher Education
All of the major issues we are grappling with – the pandemic and resulting economic
crisis, the attack on our democracy and elections, the continuing racial injustices
and growing calls to fundamentally address them – can be aided and improved through
Higher education is a portal for being better informed and prepared to deal with and
understand these problems, and many others. LTCC is a pathway to a career, but it
is also, at its core, a place where you have the tools and space to develop into an
informed and engaged citizen.
Take any class at LTCC, and you’ll learn critical thinking skills and how to apply
them to your studies and your life, how to find quality sources for information, and
how to question and dig deeper.
In LTCC science classes, you learn about the scientific method, about viruses and
how they evolve, and how vaccines work. Students are shown that scientific information
can and does change, and thinking must also change as new facts come in.
In our Political Science classes, you learn about civics, how our fragile democracy
works, why it’s worth preserving, and how it functions when it’s healthy.
In all our classes, you are exposed to the benefits of diversity. You’ll learn how
other people who are different from you conduct their lives and contribute to societies
everywhere on our planet.
LTCC and colleges like it are places that shine a light on ignorance and provide the
foundation for smart, creative ideas and ingenuity to be born. We hope you see this
2020 Key Accomplishments
In 2020, LTCC added and enhanced many programs designed to support individuals looking
to improve their career
’ve added more short-term certificates that get students educated and prepared for
viable work sooner. With these additional certificate options and stackable classes in place,
students can get
what they need to earn a Bookkeeper or Real Estate certificate in 9 months. We are also
in the process of building a new Forestry program leading to stackable certificates, an
Associate degree, and skills
that prepare students for employment in the United State Forest Service and Cal Fire. Find out more about the coming Forestry program on our webpage.
These are just some of the efforts providing opportunities for community members seeking new, more promising career pathways quickly.
With even more support services now in place, many of our students are finding they can continue and succeed in their studies, despite the difficulties they’re facing. While it may be tempting for students to quit and wait for a better day, data show they have mostly stuck with their studies at LTCC. The number of first-time, full-time students returning to LTCC went up by 3% from
Fall 2019 to Fall 2020, compared with Fall 2018 to Fall 2019. Despite the pandemic, the number of students persisting from Fall quarter 2020 to Winter quarter 2021 held steady.
In addition to persistence, LTCC students are seeing record levels of academic achievement. During the 2019-20 academic year, students completed transfer-level English and math classes at higher rates than ever before, even while dealing with the complexities of online learning. First-year completion of gateway classes is a key indicator of eventual degree completion for students. The percentage of students achieving this milestone in their first academic year doubled
last year! This is a remarkable outcome that our students should rightly be quite proud of –
they’re doing very well despite the long odds.
LTCC’s student support efforts address everything from basic needs to mental health to school supplies and academic financial support. Last year, we responded to the campus closure by quickly
purchasing and making available Chromebooks and wifi hotspot loaners, and free exterior
campus wifi access. Another successful grant is allowing us to expand LTCC’s Food Pantry
to provide even more to food-insecure students. We’ve added a mental health specialist
to meet the needs of students beyond academic advising. In these and many more ways, LTCC is making it a bit easier for
our students to hang in there and succeed.
A Look Ahead
For 2021, we maintain our optimism: for Tahoe, and for our nation. That’s not easily
achieved but we know that education is the best hope we have for getting out of our
national crises and for providing hope of a better future.
Last year was certainly difficult, but it led us to take a hard look at ourselves
and make real improvements at LTCC that matter. We are focusing on enhancing diversity, inclusivity, and equity on our campus, and we are making changes to how we operate based on our findings. We are updating recruitment and hiring practices
and taking steps leading to a more diverse pool of applicants for open positions,
hopefully resulting in a more diverse and representative staff and faculty. The inequities
that have existed in America for decades are now all being brought into sharp detail,
and as a community college, we embrace continual improvement. LTCC has a role to play
in identifying inequities and practices that limit educational access and eradicating
them on our campus and in our community.
I am optimistic that
brighter days are
ahead, and all of us at LTCC eagerly await the day we can safely welcome back our
students and the community to campus. We hope you will continue to be our partners
in all of our efforts to better inform and educate our little part of the world. Give
us a visit at www.ltcc.edu
and see what we’re accomplishing for yourself.
Jeff DeFranco has served as superintendent/president of Lake Tahoe Community College
since January 2017. To hear more from Jeff, visit his Twitter account at twitter.com/jeffdefranco or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the President's Office webpage for the latest.