Philadelphia 2009: The State of the City. That is the title of a recent study undertaken by the Philadelphia Research Initiative under the umbrella of The Pew Charitable Trusts. The study assembles a portrait of our cityís "jobs and the economy, crime and punishment, education, city government, arts and culture, and health and welfare" (Philadelphia 2009, p. 3).
The studyís benchmarks remind us of the critical role that Community College of Philadelphia plays, particularly during our nationís current economic crisis, and of the impact our College can and will have on our city and its residents. The statistical details of the study depict "an economy that boasts relative stability but little dynamism; a public education system making progress but still struggling to get the basics right; a rich and vibrant cultural scene threatened by hard times; a population that is poorer and less healthy than that of most other cities; a crime rate that has declined but not enough for residents to feel much more secure; and a recession-buffeted city government that must spend a growing proportion of its revenue on the criminal justice system and benefits for city employees" (Philadelphia 2009, p. 5).
Our efforts, as individuals and as a college community, stand in counterpoint to the weaknesses implicit in this reportís data. This past year, we graduated a total of 1,757 students, an increase of 12 percent from 2008. Students in the class of 2009 earned 2,119 degrees and certificates, an 8 percent increase from 2008. These numbers are a strong first step toward our five-year goal of increasing the number of graduates annually by about one-third. This goal is not just about bigger graduating classes. It is about providing more and more residents of our city with the education and skills that will open their horizons in highly tangible ways and that will enable Philadelphia to build its future on an increasingly educated citizenry.
Philadelphia 2009 documents an environment in which half of our cityís households generate annual income that falls below $30,000, and in which 25 percent of our residents fall below the federal poverty line. Year after year, our annual alumni survey demonstrates that the Collegeís graduates who enter the workforce directly upon graduation do so at salaries that exceed the median household income of all Philadelphians and at family sustaining wages. Again, these are more than numbers; the education validated by a Community College of Philadelphia credential has a profound effect on the futures of our students and their families. During a period of unusual and extreme challenges faced by our city, state and nation, challenges substantiated by the Philadelphia 2009 data, I believe that the efforts of our entire college community shine through at a time when our students need us the most. By the close of this academic year, we shall set an all-time record enrollment for credit students. As we enter a new year and a new decade, I thank you for your continuing efforts to make the educational experience at Community College of Philadelphia a premier and far-reaching experience for every student we serve.