11/29/07 — New high school program will boost spring enrollment, WCC officials say

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New high school program will boost spring enrollment, WCC officials say

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 29, 2007 1:45 PM

A new program allowing high school students to take college-level courses online is expected to boost enrollment numbers at Wayne Community College, President Dr. Kay Albertson told the school's trustees Tuesday night.

Learn and Earn Online, an initiative introduced by Gov. Mike Easley with funding from the General Assembly, allows students in grades 9 through 12 to take courses in a computer lab at their respective schools.

Launched in August, too late to offer in the public schools, Dr. Albertson said she anticipates the increase of high school students to be reflected in the spring semester.

"It's wide open," she said, noting some of its appeal comes from being "tuition-free, books-free, fee-free."

The online option joins other programs already catering to high school students, such as Jump Start and the Early/Middle College High School.

"We have learned a lot since (Learn and Earn was announced) so we expect the number of high school students taking online courses for college credit to skyrocket," Dr. Albertson said.

The addition of high school students will help the college's enrollment, she added.

"No longer are they supplanting of other students. They have to be given the opportunity to enroll at the same time," she said. "We have got some culture shifts to make and we're doing it."

The positive news came on the heels of Dr. Albertson's earlier comments to the board about the fall enrollment figures, which she called "flat."

"That's neither good nor bad. We just haven't grown," she said.

The fall semester head count was 3,304, up from 3,252 over the previous year.

There is pressure to maintain and improve upon that, she said, explaining that officials regularly assess viability of programs and will continue to add sections as needed.

The college is also charged with putting together a long range plan and facilities master plan, said Bill Thompson, associate vice president of institutional advancement.

Work on the long range plan, due by Dec. 31, began in September, he said.

"We had to assess program growth -- existing programs and even low enrollments or high demand that we have trouble filling," he said. "We also had to think about how much square footage we need."

Since 1996, the college has grown about 100,000 square feet as far as facilities, Thompson said. With population shifts around the county over the 10 years since, the college could stand to experience another growth spurt.

There are no funds tied to the long range plan, Thompson said. But for the first time in the history of the community college system, money has been allocated for the facilities master plan.

The General Assembly has earmarked $8 million of planning funds for colleges to develop detailed facilities master plans and initiate design of future projects. Wayne Community anticipates receiving $35,000 for development of its master plan.

At this stage, Thompson said there will be a needs assessment taking the college through 2013. Further discussion is expected to take place during the trustees' upcoming retreat in February.