ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Community College started off the new semester with an uptick in students.
According to RichmondCC President Dr. Dale McInnis, the college saw a 3% increase for the fall, following “record-setting” summer enrollment.
“That sounds small, but we’ve got a lot of colleges across the state that are still down,” McInnis said during a presentation Tuesday to the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, adding that current enrollment is “just up against where we were” before the pandemic. “So we’re starting to recover the losses and get back to where we were in 2019.”
McInnis said the college has pivoted to where it is seeing the most growth: short-term training “that ends with high-quality, high-value certificates and credentials.”
That training, McInnis said, helps students elevate their careers or start new ones.
This summer saw a 43% hike in occupational training enrollment from the previous year, according to McInnis. He said today’s adults appear to be more interested in training than a two-year degree.
“(They’re) looking for something where they can see the light a little closer to the end of the tunnel,” McInnis said, with success in the truck driver training and electrical lineman programs.
The college will be converting its welding and machining programs to the same format, according to McInnis, which will lead to a greater number of graduates “without sacrificing quality.”
McInnis then mentioned the new surgical tech program, which can be finished in two semesters instead of five.
The college is also still working with Hendrick Automotive Group to develop a 16-week automotive technician program. McInnis said he met with architects earlier in the day and got a glimpse of what the new building will look like.
“So we’re optimistic that the state budget will give us the remaining funding to get us going with that and we’ll be able to break ground on it this spring,” McInnis said. A previous budget allocated $1.5 million for the program.
McInnis went on to say the college is gearing up for its first physical education facility.
The new 911 Telecommunications program, the first in the state, currently has 49 students enrolled, according to McInnis. RichmondCC has partnered with other colleges across North Carolina to extend the program.
The Richmond County 911 Center will be used as a training lab for the program.
McInnis added that the college is working with Richmond County Schools to encourage high school students to enter the field of education with a teacher prep degree and help “eliminate some of the bumps” when transferring to a four-year institution.
“The great things happening at the college are a result of the support we get from the commissioners and the community and the great team we have there,” McInnis said.
The board also adopted a proclamation in support of National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, which runs Sept. 18-24. The Rockingham City Council approved a similar proclamation later that night.
McInnis said education is a “very important issue to our college and to the whole community.”
According to McInnis, around 19% of adults in the county older than 25 years old do not have a high school diploma.
“That’s a systemic issue that affects everything from economic development and recruitment to quality of life and to the quality of our families,” McInnis said. “Our college is committed to helping be part of the solution to that problem.”