Some 11,000 people gathered at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California (and hundreds more via the online live stream) to celebrate the summer 2014 Commencement Ceremony for American Career College (ACC). More than 1,100 graduates from all five Southern California ACC locations donned caps and gowns to walk across the stage and prepare for a new career in health care. The ceremony marked the largest in the college’s history, organizers say.
“This was a monumental day for American Career College and I am so very proud of each and every one of these graduates,” said Susan Pailet, Vice President for Student Success. “For many of these students, a career in health care was just a dream; we are dedicated to making those dreams become a reality.”
ACC was founded in Los Angeles in 1978 and has evolved into one of the largest health care educators in Southern California, says college president Tom McNamara.
“Over 36,000 students have graduated from ACC, many of whom are playing key roles in the Southern California health care sector today,” he said. “While the college’s facilities and programs have grown significantly, one very important aspect has never changed: American Career College has understood that a high-quality education can mean the difference between a short-term job and a fulfilling, long-term career.”
According to McNamara, the majority of students served by ACC are under-represented by traditional higher education. For example, of the students graduating from ACC programs at the ceremony, more than 90 percent are ethnic minorities, with Hispanic/Latino representing the largest at 60 percent. The college also reports that nearly 100 of the graduates earned a GED through the community program at ACC, joining the thousands that have done so over the past few years.
“Those graduates that never completed a high school education – they didn’t have very many career options that would pay more than minimum wage,” McNamara said. “They came to ACC because of our free community GED program, earned a GED and then went on to enroll in one of our health care programs, and today walked across the stage with a path to a better future.”
The U.S. Needs 5.6 Million More Healthcare Workers by 2020
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce recently analyzed the growing demand for specialized health care workers and the need for health care professionals in the future. Heath care represents 18% of the U.S. economy, the Georgetown report indicates, and researchers estimate that between 2010 and 2020, the number of health care jobs in the U.S. will rise from 15.6 million to 19.8 million. By 2020, the report says, about 13% of all American jobs will be in the health care industry.
While this demand for skilled health care professionals is growing, in California, funding for public higher education has been cut by $2.5 billion within the last three years, which has resulted in reduced college admissions, fewer classes and increased tuition. At the same time, California’s community colleges have cut their health care course offerings by 70 percent and currently each school has an average of 7,150 students on waiting lists.
“At a time when access to higher education is out of reach for many in the state, schools like American Career College are able to provide quality education and training to students that might otherwise have no options for pursing a college education or career training,” McNamara said. “Graduates from programs like those offered here at ACC are crucial to the availability of cost-effective and high-quality health care, that helps to ensure a good patient experience.”