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The "Delta" in Higher Education 

Making Central Oregon a better place to live; Bright ideas for a changing community

click to enlarge ROB KERR
  • Rob Kerr
Throughout my career I've seen how a college degree gives a graduate the kind of agency over a future that was otherwise uncertain. In mathematics, "delta" represents a change in some quantity. For higher education, a measure of student success is the delta from the time a student enters college to the time they graduate with a degree. The more the delta, the more the change in the student's skill sets related to critical thinking, communication and commitment to lifelong learning, among other skills. The trouble with higher education is that this delta is not available to everyone. Barriers come from many places. Certainly, financial barriers are a common theme throughout higher education. However, there are many other barriers, and some are even more challenging than financial. Location of educational opportunities is also a major factor. Having opportunities in Central Oregon is critical for access to those who live here. Locally, however, access is also affected by the lack of available child care and affordable housing.

In a recent study ("Public Viewpoints," Strada Education Network), more respondents identified self-doubt as a barrier than the cost of higher education. Helping students feel that they can succeed and that they do belong is important for access. Part of the delta that higher education provides is a feeling of accomplishment, self-actualization and the confidence that comes from both.

However, higher education cannot reach students who do not seek these opportunities because they do not see a successful path for themselves. It is incumbent upon each of us to show all students at a young age that they can succeed in college and that the delta that they secure for themselves can be life-changing.

—An aerospace engineer and researcher by training, Andrew Ketsdever joined OSU-Cascades in 2018 as an associate dean and was promoted to dean of academic affairs before being named interim vice president this spring.

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