City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado was one of three panelists who participated in a virtual panel Thursday afternoon hosted by Strada Education Foundation.

The panelists were invited to share their expertise on community colleges, what they’re doing well, improvements that could be made and to share their reactions to Strada’s new report entitled The Value of Community Colleges: Recent Students’ Motivations and Outcomes. The Strada Community College Outcomes Survey was given to 1,139 people who attended a community college in the U.S. in the past 10 years but are not currently enrolled.

Chancellor Juan Salgado, upper right corner, discusses the Strada Education Foundation report findings on a virtual panel.

During the panel, researchers highlighted key points from the report, including the fact that only about one in three community college attendees completed their associate degree, but said they achieved what they wanted out of a community college experience. The report also found that students who say that their education helped them to develop communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills earn more money and rate the value of their education more highly than those who do not feel that their education helped them to develop these skills.

“Our students are exceptional,” said Chancellor Salgado. “They are exceptionally talented. They excel in relevant and rigorous college courses while they’re managing very complex lives with multiple job and life responsibilities…they are assets you don’t want to miss out on. You don’t want to miss out on them in your workplaces, you don’t want to miss out on them in your universities. You’ve got to really tap into that. Our faculty and staff are equally diverse and talented and experienced in their fields and so the combination of those two make us exceptionally talented and diverse institutions.”

He also emphasized the importance of support services for all students, particularly first-generation students who may need coaching and professional mentors who already work in the industries students want to enter. And how vital it is to map out an educational and career pathway with students early.

“We all need to do a better job of becoming coaches and guiding students,” he said. “When a student arrives, we need to be in a coaching stance. We need to ask, ‘What assets do you have?’ and start from there.”

Strada Education Foundation is a nonprofit corporation that uses research, public policy solutions, and other nonprofit organizations to ensure equitable paths to opportunity after students complete a post-secondary education.

To read the full report and watch the hour-long panel, visit the Strada Education Foundation’s website.