June 23, 2024

Testimony Before County Council

Last week the County Council took public comments as it prepared its FY13 budget. Several people spoke on behalf of Montgomery College, testifying as to the great work that we do here, and the importance of the County’s support toward our being able to continue this work. In times such as this, I am proud that the Chapter is able to work as a partner with the administration in showing the important role we all play in empowering our students to change their lives. That is not to say that we always agree with the administration on the best way to do this. We will continue to press the case with the administration when we believe that its spending priorities are not optimal. However, the importance of our students to us, and the importance of our work to our students, is something that we all share, and can stand behind together.
Among the speakers before the Council were 4 MC students – one representing each of our 3 campuses, and the student member of our Board of Trustees. I know of the old show-business adage about never following a dog act, but I can’t imagine that would be any harder than following the wonderful speeches these students gave. Each told a compelling tale of their journey to and through MC that visibly moved members of the Council. When I had the opportunity to speak, I too emphasized our students, and in particular a few of the students that I personally have worked with over the past year. My testimony is copied below.


April 12, 2012
Good evening,

My name is Rick Penn. I am a professor of mathematics, and represent the faculty of Montgomery College as president of the American Association of University Professors.

I was very pleased to see that the County Executive proposed a budget fully funding Montgomery College’s request of level funding, and encourage you to maintain this funding in your budget. As a native of Montgomery County, and a life-long resident of Rockville, I know of the Council’s long history of recognizing the value that Montgomery College adds to our community. I thank you for your past support, and hope that it will continue.

In preparing my remarks for this evening, I came across a study of the economic impact that community colleges provide to the state of Maryland. This report, produced a couple of years ago by CCbenefits, Inc, calculated a ROI to the taxpayers of 9.8% for money invested in community colleges, in the form of avoided negative social costs and increased tax revenue from the resulting income growth. The economic benefit to the students themselves is significantly greater. As a mathematician I would be happy to discuss such numbers, but as I’ve learned from my students sometimes it is helpful to step back from the theory, and look at specific examples. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you stories of a couple of students with whom I’ve personally worked over just the past year, to illustrate who is directly benefiting from Montgomery College.

This past year the mathematics discipline completely revamped its developmental program in an attempt to help more students pass this traditional stumbling block and prepare for college level courses. This fall, in the first semester that this was offered, my students achieved a level of success that gives me great hope for this program. One young woman in particular, who like most in her class had always struggled with math, took advantage of the self-pacing to work ahead, finished the course early, and then nearly lived in the lab for the last month of the term until she successfully completed a 2nd course as well, saving herself a full semester. She is now taking statistics, and doing quite well.

MC is also fortunate to serve a large population of very successful students. Last spring I taught an honors seminar in game theory, a mathematical analysis of how people, businesses, countries, or even animal species with conflicting goals can best achieve the most favorable outcome for themselves. The students in this seminar were incredibly bright and motivated, and they pushed each other – and me- much harder than I had ever experienced in a course at this level. One student, for example, wrote a term paper researching game theoretic decision making in oligopolies. He has since transferred to Cornell University where he is studying business and mathematics.

Finally, many MC students participate each year in a national math competition for students in 2 year colleges. Even though many of the students initially participate in response to arm-twisting by their professors, quite a few discover a real enjoyment in solving mathematical puzzles. While this year’s results are not official yet, MC looks likely to once again have a team finish near the top in the mid-Atlantic region. I will be joining a colleague in bringing 4 of the students who were among the most successful in this competition to compete against students from other local community colleges next weekend.
While the examples that I have shared tonight are all from my discipline, students in all fields, and at all levels, are transforming their lives and achieving their goals at Montgomery College. Please support our level funding request and help us to continue to provide the innovative programs and support services that they need to succeed.

Thank you.

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