Redding, California, is a city with few choices for students interested in higher education. For generations, the local economy has been mostly based on sales of natural resources, such as minerals and wood from the forests of northern California.
Jobs in these industries traditionally did not require a college education, and they long offered enough pay to support a family, says Buffy Tanner. Tanner is the director of several programs at Shasta College, a local two-year college. She describes Shasta as the only public higher education institution serving the surrounding the area.
“We don’t really have a college-going culture in our area,” Tanner tells VOA. “Even with the shift in our economic base, there’s still lots of families that don’t quite understand, you know, ‘Why would you go to college? Why wouldn’t you just go to work directly out of high school?’”
Over the past 30 years, many local businesses dealing with natural resources have closed, says Tanner. Now, most of the local job openings are in fields like healthcare and education, which do require some kind of college degree.
The issue is that, because people in Redding have failed to see the value of higher education, few of them have a degree. In fact, three years ago, Shasta found that about 31 percent of area adults over age 25 had attended college without completing their study programs.
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