THE strong enrollment numbers every year at Northern Marianas College and the historic eight-year accreditation reaffirmation highlighted the signing of a proclamation on Monday, declaring April as Community College Month.
NMC President Galvin S. Deleon Guerrero, EdD, NMC Board of Regents Chairman Charles Cepeda, Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez, NMC students and other college officials joined Gov. Ralph DLG Torres for a proclamation signing in the NMC Board of Regents conference room.
NMC joins other community colleges across the nation in celebrating Community College Month, a “month-long grassroots education and stigma-busting campaign coordinated by the Association of Community College Trustees” or ACCT.
The primary goals of Community College Month, or #CCMonth, are to improve awareness of the economic, academic and equity advantages of attending community colleges, and to bust longtime stigmas wrongly associated with public two-year colleges.
ACCT President and CEO Jee Hang Lee said community colleges are engines of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“They give opportunities to all students, and they support all students throughout their educations, whether they attend to attain an associate degree or certificate, intend to transfer on for a bachelor’s or higher degree, or they take one or a few courses to learn a new skill or expand their horizons,” Lee said.
Deleon Guerrero said community colleges provide higher education to students with the least resources and greatest obstacles.
Community colleges, the proclamation states, "are among the most in-demand institutions during and following times of economic challenges, are primary certifiers of in-demand nursing and other healthcare professionals, and are there for their communities during times of crisis.”
Deleon Guerrero said other colleges and universities in the nation have seen a decline in enrollment numbers over the past years due to Covid-19 pandemic.
NMC’s Fall 2020 enrollment was 1,333 which increased to 1,450 in Fall 2021.
"I am very happy to share with you that over the past five years, our associate degree programs have doubled their graduation rates,” he said. “That is something to celebrate. At a time when community colleges and universities across the nation are seeing a decline on enrollment numbers because of the pandemic, NMC enrollment has increased slightly. We have not lost our students, we have remained focused. And today is a very, very, appropriate way to celebrate and honor what the college is doing, who we are, what we stand for and where we are going," he said.
He also mentioned the commendation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission, which noted NMC's resiliency in responding to Super Typhoon Yutu; its timely, comprehensive, and effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and effective management of its financial resources, resulting in the reaffirmation of NMC’s accreditation in March.
The historic eight-year accreditation term, the longest in NMC's history, "is a clear validation and assurance of the quality of education and services provided by the NMC for the people of the Commonwealth," Deleon Guerrero said.
He said the college is now moving forward with new facilities. NMC will soon break ground for the construction of the new student center, he added.
The college is also working on a new strategic master plan that the board of regents has adopted.
"We will take care of our duty, we will take care of our resources, but most importantly we will take care of our people including our students because that is what stewardship is all about — helping make things better while they are in our custody," he said.
For his part, the governor urged business partners to continue to invest in NMC.
He said the increase in enrollment even at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic "just shows how much the community believes in NMC and its leaders."
The governor remembered walking around the college in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yutu. It was heartbreaking, he said. Now the college is back on its feet and is building a new facility, he added as he congratulated NMC’s officials, faculty, staff and students.