By Ashley Allen-Brown, former director, Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks

Higher education has had a tough couple of years.

The pandemic forced us to look at how we teach students, what they need, and how to support them in their goals. Folks in our field are not always willing to change, but it has been very encouraging to watch my colleagues at Columbia College continually test, alter, and re-evaluate what we do. Because of that, we now have many flexible course delivery options for students and are currently developing exciting new degree programs that are more relevant to today’s world.

Lake of the Ozarks Director Ashley Allen-Brown

Unfortunately, though, the field of higher education overall has seen a large drop in consumer confidence in our product. Recent reports say that just a couple of years ago nearly two-thirds of Americans said higher education had a positive impact on the country. Today that amount has dropped to slightly over half.

What has happened is that more people are knowledgeable about the postsecondary options available to them now, and thus have much higher expectations about what they want from an education.

Columbia College meets those expectations head-on. The things that adult learners indicate are most important to them RIGHT NOW are: flexibility, value for their money, and a supportive community.

Flexibility is our bread and butter – students can take classes at a physical venue on a specific day and time, they can take classes virtually from anywhere (including their home) at a specific day and time, or they can take classes in an asynchronous fashion online. Students can take a term off, or two or three, and can return to complete their degree at their own pace. They can take several classes in a semester to complete their degree on a faster track, or they can pick up one class at a time if they so choose.

Columbia College offers real value for a student’s tuition dollar due to the one-price option. There are not only no book costs or supplementary education fees, but many important services are offered to students without any additional cost. As a matter of fact, that takes me to our supportive community environment…

We have advisors and experts for you every step of the way – we can provide guidance for your academic journey, but also help you identify your best financial options as well as utilize corporate or military funding if you are eligible. Our commitment to student wellness and mental health comes with no costs or strings attached. We have counselors and resources to get you in touch with the assistance you need at the time you need it. Our career services office helps you personally search and prepare for employment or internships, including reviewing your résumé, so that you are ready for that next adventure in your career. Your location staff here at the Lake of the Ozarks are backed up by a team of folks always ready and willing to help with any obstacle you face in your education journey – all you have to do is ask.

So, while some are bemoaning the “state of higher education” as it is right now, I’m confident in how Columbia College has responded to the challenge. Just like we did in 1851, we are doing it today – we change lives… for the better.