In a letter to the edit or of The New York Times, award-winning actor Tom Hanks wrote “I Owe It All to Community College”. He recounts how he did not have the grades, the SAT scores or the money to attend a four-year college.

Even if you CAN get in and pay for a 4-year school, there are reasons that one of the 1,655 community colleges in our country might be a better choice. These schools have a huge positive impact on students, society and taxpayers. No matter what state you live, community colleges have opportunities that are worth checking out.

I recently had the tremendous pleasure of spending the day at Isothermal Community College nestled in the beautiful foothills of western North Carolina.

Only about 90 minutes from Charlotte, the serene and scenic town of Spindale is the proud home of one of the best community colleges in our country. Walter Dalton and his lovely wife Lucille have been my special friends since our days at UNC Chapel Hill together. After serving North Carolina six terms as a senator, as well as Lieutenant Governor, my friend Walter has taken his passion to help others back home to Rutherford County to serve as President of this wonderful community college. He had many offers, but there is no place like home where he and Lucille grew up.  

performing arts

As I drove onto the campus, the spectacular Foundation Performing Arts Center took me aback. It is so grand and gorgeous sitting by the lake in this quaint, cozy community. The same team who did the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte designed this beautiful theater. Speakers and performers from around the world love to spend time here.

At ICC, you can take your passion and turn it into a career instead of heading to a university and hoping you will figure out something to do with your life. For example, here you can turn your love of music and television into a broadcast career or turn your love of horses into a well-paying job. I am also very excited about helping to develop a culinary program at ICC and spend some time with their broadcasting classes.

barbara Mckay at ICC

Since my background is in television and radio, I was fascinated to visit the ICC radio station WNCW 88.7. They still do their own programming and you will probably be as delighted as I was to learn that comedian Steve Martin is a big fan of the station. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for one of his movies years ago.  The talented Mr. Martin has participated in WNCW on-air phone interviews and a did a promo supporting their membership drive.  Allison Krause and other big stars also are fans of their unique format. The beautiful setting attracts many well-known people from around the world as both fans and performers.


The possibilities are endless at ICC and other community colleges. Doing something you love means you never feel like you are going to work. And if your goal is to graduate from a four-year school, classes at community colleges transfer. Even if you are older than college age, you can enjoy learning a new skill or hobby or how to start your own business. Or maybe you have a four-year degree, but no job, or one that you don’t enjoy. Community colleges like ICC teach technical trades and skills that allow you to join the workforce doing something you do enjoy.

Just some things to think about whether you are a student, a parent or someone who wants to make some life changes.

Tell Me: Are you aware of the benefits associated with attending community college? If so, please list any that I did not mention above!