Opinion: Community College Can Make a Big Difference

March 17, 2023

On nola.com and in the March 16 edition of the Times-Picayune, a letter by former Delgado student and professor Marlene Friis points to the high quality of a Delgado educational experience. Friis taught at Delgado from 2007 to 2020 and was a 2018 Excellence in Teaching award nominee.

I’m sure countless Louisianans have similar stories to Jennifer Burgess, 38, who rhetorically asked, “If I’m not a graduate, who is?” after being excluded from Baton Rouge Community College’s graduation success metrics, which are defined as first-time students who stay in school and earn an associate degree within three years.

This youth-focused definition of success excludes many community college students, myself included. I was an assistant professor at Delgado Community College when I returned to the classroom concurrently. I started off by taking one class per semester in subjects of personal interest, such as Spanish 101 and 102, as well as American Sign Language.

As my children grew more independent, I was able to pursue the more ambitious goal of applying to a doctoral program at Tulane. To make me a more competitive candidate and prepare me for the interview process, over the course of a year, I enrolled in psychology, anatomy and physiology I and II, and cell biology, and their requisite labs at Delgado’s City Park campus in New Orleans. There were pre-med students from LSU and Tulane in those classes as well.

I am now a third-year doctoral student in the aging studies program at Tulane’s School of Medicine. Without a shadow of a doubt, classes at Delgado were instrumental in my successful application as well as my content knowledge preparation.

Like so many others who attended community college, I will never have a degree from Delgado on my wall, yet my current position would never have been possible without the rigorous education I received there. I encourage anyone looking to switch gears to check out what their local community college has to offer. I am forever grateful to Delgado and to the committed instructors who enable nontraditional students to pursue their own paths in life.


New Orleans

Subscribers to nola.com/The Times-Picayune can see the letter online.