Richmond Community College in Hamlet continues to grow, recording record enrollment for the new fall semester — the fourth year in a row with a growing student body.
The RCC Board of Trustees received a record enrollment report for the college at its September meeting this week.
The board learned that 2,568 students had enrolled in curriculum programs for fall as of Aug. 26 — one week into classes, according to a report by Bill Council, RCC’s Dean of Institutional Effectiveness.
Enrollment for fall 2012 was 2,523 students, Council said.
“Our sustained growth is a testament to the hard work of our faculty and staff and the leadership of our Board of Trustees,” said RCC President Dale McInnis. “They have done a great job of getting the message out about our programs and offerings and have been great advocates for our college and our students.”
The numbers show RCC continues to buck the common perception that community college enrollment is closely tied to the unemployment rate in its service area, administrators said.
“What we have seen over the past few years is that our enrollment has been growing, even as the unemployment rate has leveled off or decreased in Richmond and Scotland counties,” said Council. “Our new programs that lead to high-demand careers are driving our growth as a college.”
McInnis agreed. “Understanding where the careers are and being able to adapt to the changing job marketplace has been vital to our growth,” he said. “It has allowed us to keep more Richmond and Scotland county residents home to continue their educations.”
Keeping with that theme, the board also approved the development of a Dialysis Technology Diploma program to begin in the fall of 2014.
“Unfortunately, dialysis is a growth industry and there are good careers in that particular health care niche,” said McInnis.
“The salaries for dialysis technicians are positioned fairly strongly in the field,” said Jim McCaskill, chair of the Academic and Student Policy Committee. “North Carolina will be joining 14 other states in requiring certification for these positions, so this program will open up great opportunities for our students.”
Initially the program will offer a one-year diploma, but once it is up and running, the college can become accredited to offer a two-year Associates of Applied Science in dialysis technology.
The board also approved the college’s 2013-14 operating budget of $26.6 million, of which $15.6 million comes from the state. Richmond and Scotland counties provide just over $2 million to fund RCC’s operations. More than one-third of the total budget — $9.02 million — is in the form of federal student aid.
In other matters, the board received an update on the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The QEP is an integral part of RCC’s ongoing reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
The plan, presented by QEP chair and English instructor Althea Hunsucker and titled “Speaking to Convey, Writing to Display,” focuses on writing and speaking across all curriculum areas at the college.
“This is not just about English classes,” said Hunsucker. “It’s about improving student communication skills by making writing and speaking a priority across campus.”
Improved student learning outcomes is at the heart of the plan, she said, with professional development of RCC faculty and assessments being emphasized to support learning.
“Writing and speaking cut across every career,” said board member Joe Liles. “Being able to clearly and effectively communicate ideas is essential, so I am glad that we are making this a priority for the college. Our students will be better positioned because of it.”
The plan has been sent to SACS for review. RCC will have its on-campus review Oct. 15-17.
In other action, the board selected new leadership. Claudia Robinette was chosen as board chair and Dean Nichols was selected vice chair.
“It is quite an honor to be selected to serve the board in this capacity,” said Robinette, who becomes only the second permanent chair of the RCC Board of Trustees. Hugh Lee served as chair from 1964 until 2012. Vice chair Joyce McDow presided over meetings after Lee’s death, until she stepped down from the board in July.
“I am following in some big footsteps, but I look forward to continuing the legacy of greatness that Mr. Lee created at this college,” Robinette said.
“I am honored that my colleagues on the board have put their faith in me to serve in this capacity,” said Nichols. “RCC’s leadership has set the college on a great path and I am proud to be a part of its future and am very excited about where we are heading.”