Columbus is doing well when it comes to jobs, education and other benchmarks, both historically and compared to surrounding communities. That was one of the messages delivered during the “Columbus Present” forum Thursday night at the Columbus Learning Center.
The event was hosted by Ivy Tech Community College of Columbus and sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa and the Ivy Tech Library. The panel discussion included talks by Mayor Jim Lienhoop, LaTosha Lafferty and Rick Scalf with Black Lives Matter, Columbus Municipal Airport Director Brian Payne and Kathy Oren from the Community Education Coalition.
Oren talked about how education is key to economic prosperity for area residents and the community as a whole. On that front, she says that Bartholomew County is doing better than average on post-secondary educational achievement. While the state rate for Hoosiers with an associate’s degree or higher is almost 36 percent, Bartholomew County is at 42.2 percent.
Despite those figures, a considerable number of people are struggling financially. Oren cited figures that, in spite of a county unemployment rate of 2.5 percent, nearly 30 percent of families live within two-times the poverty rate. That translates to 43.2 percent of county students qualifying for free or reduced lunches at school.
Oren says that these figures illustrate a need for community leaders, families and students to focus more on education. She notes that the percentage of jobs requiring some form of post-secondary education is expected to go up drastically by 2024.