Richmond Community College trustees and administration met with lawmakers. Pictured are Trustee Claudia Robinette, Sen.Gene McLaurin, Trustees Jim McCaskill, J.C. Lamm, and Vice Chair Joyce McDow, Rep. Garland Pierce, RCC President Dr. Dale McInnis, and Rep. Goodman.
Bucking a statewide trend, Richmond Community College has experienced continued growth of its student body over the past several years.
That fact was one of many shared by RCC President Dale McInnis this week during the school’s annual legislative breakfast.
Joined by Rep. Garland Pierce, Sen. Gene McLaurin and Rep. Ken Goodman as well as members of the RCC Board of Trustees, McInnis credited the positive enrollment figures with a thriving public schools partnership and the introduction of new programs.
According to McInnis, programs that allow for the early enrollment of high school students and that facilitate the enrollment of recent high school graduates have helped RCC swell its ranks.
“I was excited to learn about the continued growth of RCC,” said Pierce, praising the school for offering opportunities to non-traditional college students as well as those just out of high school.
The Wagram Democrat’s district includes portions Scotland, Richmond, Hoke and Robeson counties.
“There are many people out of work in our area, so many students going to RCC are not the typical college student. You have older people going back to retrain for new and better jobs.
“I’m glad RCC is there to offer these opportunities, and I’m proud of the Scotland County campus and what it offers from a health care perspective.”
Pierce said that the health care education programs offered at RCC’s Laurinburg campus are helping many go back to work or to work for the first time. Pierce singled out the school’s Associate in Applied Science Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology and its internship partnership with Progress Energy, which has lead to some two year graduates walking straight from the classroom into jobs paying more than $70,000 per year.
“When you are talking that much per year, that is nothing to sneeze at, and it is an example of how RCC can help with the unemployment problem in our area,” Pierce said.
During his presentation to the lawmakers, McInnis said that the quality of the education offered by the school is bolstered by RCC’s continued reinvestment of enrollment funds into the hiring of faculty.
McInnis said that RCC’s “highly qualified faculty (is) comparable to what would be found at a university.”
Facilitating the progression of students through the state’s educational hierarchy is a challenge that Pierce said he will take into consideration while serving in Raleigh.
“Dr. McInnis brought it up that we are trying to do what is best for the student and trying to make it easy for students to have their courses follow them and transfer to the next level, from high school to university,” Pierce said.
Improved funding of the community college system is something that McInnis also discussed, saying that the state’s community colleges are funded a rate “considerably less” than their four-year and graduate-level counterparts.
McInnis asked for the lawmakers’ support of the community college system’s plan for performance funding which rewards colleges for meeting set criteria. Those criteria range from retention goals to the success of students on license exams. They also include how well students perform after transferring to universities.
As a former community college student, Sen. Gene McLaurin said that he will always hold the state’s community college system in high regard.
“I enjoyed having the chance to meet face-to-face with them and I am looking forward to working with them on their funding concerns, because as a former community college student I am always eager to do anything I can to help.
“This was a great opportunity to hear from (McInnis) about the issues that the college is dealing with in light of increased enrollment and their concerns about state funding for the school’s programs,” said McLaurin, a former mayor of Rockingham.
According to McInnis, year-round funding could solve some of the community colleges’ money worries. McInnis explained that some programs require students to attend classes during the summer. The college does not earn funding credit during summer semesters, which makes it a challenge to keep tuition stable during summer sessions.
Pierce said that while new Gov. Pat McCrory has questioned the value of a liberal arts education, community colleges should not be caught in the crossfire between Raleigh partisans.
“The governor is saying that he wants to have people leaving school ready to work and people certainly leave community colleges ready to work, so that makes me think that if anything, community colleges should see some improved funding,” Pierce said.
“I talked to Dr. McInnis about what the governor said about liberal arts and McInnis assured me that a good worker needs to have a liberal arts education. You need to know how to talk about history, philosophy and to have writing skills. It all goes hand-in-hand.”
Having experienced $2.8 million in budget cuts over the past three years, McInnis said that RCC has become lean and efficient and can still be counted on to meet the needs of the region.
For their continued success in the face of budget cuts, Pierce said that community colleges in general and Richmond Community College in particular have become invaluable to North Carolina in the modern economy.
“RCC is a jewel in our region for all that they are doing and I encourage them to keep up their work.”