Most Lincoln County residents already know Gaston College is the nearest, most accessible school when youâ€™re learning career skills or seeking entry to a four-year college. For many just out of high school who donâ€™t have the financial or academic standing to got to a UNC-Chapel Hill or Appalachian State, itâ€™s often the only place available.
There are many other benefits Lincoln residents gain from the college, some outlined here from data school officials recently shared with the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.
Approximately 80 percent of the students who attend Gaston College stay in the region and contribute to the local economy after they leave college.
The average earnings of a student with an associate degree are 81.8 percent more than someone without a high school diploma and 15.4 percent more than a person with a high school diploma. This gap is likely to widen as the workplace becomes more high-tech. For every credit completed, Gaston College students earn $127 more per year each year they are in the workforce.
Lincoln County has also recognized direct benefits from Gaston College, which employed 25 full-time and 78 part-time faculty and staff in Lincoln County (2003) at a payroll of just over $1 million. Past students, now active in Lincoln County, contribute an estimated $17.5 million in income per year to the Lincoln County economy.
The college made a huge contribution to Lincoln County when it opened its Lincoln Campus at the old Lincolnton High School. Local government and industries (especially the Timken Company) helped bring this about with contributions that provided for the restoration of the school to its very tasteful presence on South Aspen near downtown Lincolnton.
The campus is now planning an expansion, once again with the help of local contributors, that will enable the school to provide a four-year degree program for students at the Lincoln Campus.
If Gaston College had not plugged in its program, Lincoln County surely would have had to fill this all-important need on its own at a huge expense. We are very fortunate to have this school in our own community.
by Al Dozier