LAURINBURG —With three classrooms, a welding lab, and full-time instructors working on Scotland High School’s campus, Richmond Community College’s partnership with the local school system is flourishing.
Meeting on Tuesday in the Honeycutt Center, the Richmond Community College Board of Trustees heard from Scotland High principal Jonathan McRae and Kary Edmondson, RCC director of K-12 partnerships on efforts to expand and promote the community college’s offerings to Scotland High students.
“We changed the registration process so that every student speaks with an adult through that process, and they’re promoting these courses,” said McRae. “One of our goals is that every student graduates from Scotland High School having at least one college course they have taken through that four-year process. We would like to see that grow even more than just one.”
Enrollment in RCC courses taught on the high school’s campus has grown from 84 in the fall of 2013 to 121 in the fall of 2015. Since taking the reins at the high school in January, McRae has revoked seniors’ early dismissal privileges in lieu of the opportunity to take RCC courses.
“We know a high school diploma is not worth as much as it used to be, and if they can leave us with college credits, some type of certification, or steps toward that certification, they are college and career ready, that’s our goal,” he said.
RCC is also in the process of adding a machining pathway to the complement of technically-focused courses it offers at the high school.
Students in the Scotland Early College High School also have the opportunity to earn an RCC associate’s degree along with a high school diploma in a condensed five-year program. In 2014, 11 early college students graduated with an associate’s. That number grew to 32 last year and is expected to exceed 40 with this spring’s graduating class.
RCC is also operating a three- year $200,000 National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Program grant to increase student awareness of and preparation for careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematical fields.
That effort has included reaching out to public school counselors in Scotland and Richmond counties to familiarize them with the various RCC program offerings and emphasize the importance of math in preparing for careers in modern industry.
“As you’ve heard others say, the jobs are out there, we have the training programs in place, and what we realized is we weren’t attracting students that were sufficiently prepared to be successful in these programs,” said Cynthia Reeves, RCC’s associate dean of institutional effectiveness and improvement.
Also on Tuesday, RCC President Dale McInnis predicted that the college will receive additional state funding for the upcoming year based on growth in enrollment — which since 2009 has outpaced of other community colleges in North Carolina. That year, RCC ranked 42nd of 58 community colleges. For the current school year, it ranks 29th.
“This is the final enrollment numbers that we’ve got for this year,” McInnis said. “This drives how much new money we get next year: if you gain in enrollment over the last year, you get new money, if you decline you lose money.”
Tentatively, according to McInnis, RCC is expecting to enroll an additional 130 students, which could results in a $550,000 state budget increase.
In other business, McInnis and RCC vice-president of workforce and economic development Robbie Taylor discussed the college’s approach to meeting the needs of RSI Home Products, which last month announced that it will build a manufacturing and distribution plant in Hamlet employing 175 people this year.
“They’ve already ordered the equipment, they already know how their lines are going to be set up, so the big challenge we’re going to be looking at is going to be pre-employment,” McInnis said. “That’s going to be our focus: help getting a pool of folks who are trainable and ready to work.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.