To the Editor:
If you look up "college" in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, you find six variations of the definition: a body of like-minded individuals; an institution of higher education; a place preparing people for a profession, a vocation, or a technical career; or faculty, students, and administration engaged in a course of general studies leading to a degree.
In Bladen County there is only one college: Bladen Community College. It is no longer "Bladen Tech" offering only vocational classes, though these classes are still offered. It is a full college offering the residents of this county the opportunity to pursue whatever profession or vocation they choose. It is the ground zero of educational hope in Bladen County.
From among BCC's alumni, Bladen County benefits from computer experts, lawyers, nurses, radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, mechanics, carpenters, nursing assistants, doctors, plumbers, teachers, police officers, firemen, emergency medical personnel, secretaries, small business owners, cosmetologists, real estate agents, newspaper reporters, welders, restaurant owners and workers, and so many other vital workers. Where would our county be without these well-trained workers?
Bladen Community College belongs to Bladen County. Literally. When the college was chartered in 1968, Bladen County agreed to provide the college with facilities, lights, water, phone, vehicles, maintenance and custodial personnel, and expendable supplies.
Over the next 30 years, as the college remained relatively stable in size, school officials became adept at stretching local dollars to keep the school running. Then in a four-year period, the college quietly tripled in size and became a major player on the state level in several areas.
At the same time as the on-campus population exploded, the continuing education folks quadrupled their enrollment and the East Arcadia campus was opened and expanded. School officials valiantly tried to serve 1500 fulltime daily students on the same funds it had been using for 600 while also handling the increased demands from these other areas.
In the years between 1968 and 2001, BCC's campus grew to 11 buildings. As special state appropriations and bonds gave the campus money to build needed classrooms, local dollars remained steadily the same: no money for repairs, for roofs, for heating and air conditioning replacement or upgrades, no money for water and electricity for these new buildings; no money for toilet tissue, soap, or paper towels; no money for lawn mowers or weed eaters, no money for people to clean, repair, keep grounds; no money for sidewalks and parking lots.
Since 2001, the BCC main campus has been desperately trying to catch-up on 30 years of neglect. The task is arduous and has been aided by the passage of a state bond referendum. But there is a "catch" to this picture. Building a building requires that it get electricity and water and be maintained on a daily basis.
These things require county dollars. With a maintenance and custodial staff that has dwindled from a high of nine people to only five people while the college has expanded, times are just plain tough.
Bladen County officials are currently in the process of planning their next budget. They have a very difficult task in front of them. There are ever increasing demands on the limited pot of tax dollars from social services, from the public school system, from county services, and from Bladen County's only college.
The question every county citizen must ask is whether or not they believe the adage that teaching people to fish is better than feeding them a fish platter? BCC teaches people to fish. That is the real mission of all the state's 58 community colleges: give every citizen the opportunity to become self-sufficient.
Statewide, community colleges receive local funding at a rate of about 12% of their state budgets. Bladen Community College gets about 4%. The situation has reached desperation. The college realizes how financially challenged the county is; it has been a very frugal county citizen, but it is now time to face reality. The college can no longer make it through the year on existing county funds. How can you help?
If you have been touched by your college, if a family member has benefited from it, if your business has prospered because of training provided by the college, or if you are simply of the mindset that Bladen County citizens deserve a chance at higher education, then please encourage our county commissioners to keep our doors open, our lights on, our water running, our phones ringing, and our maintenance and custodial staff at a level allowing the school to operate. Your college is depending on you.
Distance Learning Department
Bladen Community College