Becky Kiser

Banking on a Community College

Becky Kiser benefitted from a community college. Now it’s her son’s turn

Becky Kiser knows all about the benefits of attending a community college.
And now, so does her son.

Kiser, manager of the main branch of First National Bank serving Erie and Crawford counties, went to a traditional four-year college for her degree in finance and accounting, but supplemented her studies at far less cost by taking five courses at a community college in Ohio.

Her son, John Babyak, a McDowell High School grad, is now taking a similar path, attending Lakeland Community College in Kirkland, Ohio before he goes onto a four-year school.

By earning an associate degree in general studies from Lakeland Community College, John has saved the family plenty of money as he gained clarity on his career path. He now plans to major in education and aspires to be a physical education teacher.

A Stepping Stone for Erie County Students

When Kiser moved here in 2005, she was surprised to find out that Erie County did not have a community college. “I’ve said to many people that Erie would benefit from a community college. They’re all over the place in Ohio,” she said.
You could say they’re all over the place in Pennsylvania, too, just not in Erie’s population center. Pennsylvania has 14 stand-alone community colleges, with the closest in Butler, about 100 miles south of the city of Erie.

Kiser said Erie area residents would benefit from a community college as an option or a stepping stone toward a four-year Becky Kiser school. “Maybe they don’t want a four-year college, maybe they’re only looking for a two-year associate’s program,” she said.

There are other benefits, too, including job creation at the community college, scheduling flexibility for those who work, and options for adults who want to train for a job or have an interest in a particular class.

Kiser, in her role with First National, said she works a lot with the Booker T. Washington Center and the low- to- moderate-income tracts in the area. The center has been pushing for a community college. “They offer some courses, some starter courses, but you can’t get a degree there,” she said.

Community College proved to be a career booster

Kiser got her degree from Baldwin Wallace University, a private school in Berea, Ohio, and she was spending about $18,000 just for classes (not counting room and board). Meanwhile, she took several classes — marketing and sales, history and a couple of English courses — at Lorain Community College in the summer to keep her expenses down. The cost was a couple of hundred dollars per class.
She also took those classes from full-time and adjunct professors to fulfill her desire to learn more about marketing and sales – skills that have helped her succeed in her current job.

“I was an accountant for 13 years, then I went into banking. In banking, you’re in front of the public constantly. Having that sales and marketing background for me was huge,” she said.

“I saved money, but I also acquired good skills and background from that community college experience,” she said.

Both learning experiences — the numbers side and the marketing side — provided a solid foundation for her career. And both fit her personality.
“Most accountants are usually quieter people and I’m not so much that person,” she said.

But she wasn’t always that way. She credits the community college with pushing her out of that comfort zone and helping her to learn to speak in front of people, no matter the situation.

As for her son, Kiser is proud of his achievements at the community college. She only wishes he could have earned his degree in his hometown.
“If there had been a community college here in Erie, my son would have stayed in Erie,” she said. “It would have been perfect for him. Hopefully in the future others in his situation won’t have to go out of state for something they could have in their own community.”

Becky Kiser
First National Bank
Erie, PA

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