Tears of joy streaked the cheeks of the woman proudly striding toward me as she crossed the stage in Salem State University’s Rockett Arena last May. She joined 1,142 other North Shore Community College students receiving their degrees and certificates, culminating what for many was a long and challenging journey. Her joyful family waited for her at the bottom of the stairs behind me, literally jumping with joy before embracing her to share in the glory of that moment. What struck me after I handed her the degree that she had worked so hard to attain describes the essence of the difference between America’s community colleges and traditional four-year colleges: The celebrants were the graduate’s children and the graduate their mother.
How do I place a value on the increment in her self-respect, the additional skills she acquired to contribute to the workplace, the inspiration she generated in her family and friends? If I cannot, how can I convince others that the return on their investment in public higher education is worth the cost?
In his analysis, “Keep small enterprise growth engine vibrant with tax restraint” (Salem News, Feb. 21), Rob Lutts, chairman of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce and president and chief investment officer of Cabot Money Management Inc., argues that, “Now is not the time to increase business overhead with more tax burdens.” He urges those of us leading public institutions to “Do more with less. Create more efficiency in our operations, be creative in the use of technology and ask more of your current staff.” From my years of service on the board of the North Shore Chamber, two as its chair, I know and have great respect for Rob as an eloquent spokesperson from the business leader point of view.
My perspective is different from Rob’s, though, as president of the institution striving to provide those 20 employees for more than 26.5 million small businesses in the U.S.