BRCC Experiences Growth in Programs Across the College

 

BRCC News | Published September 7, 2018

Blue Ridge Community College announces growth in its curriculum (college credit) programs, following several years of flat enrollment. Based on a recent report 2,191 students are enrolled for Fall Semester.  

Dr. Laura Leatherwood, Blue Ridge Community College president, said she is extremely proud of the work the staff and faculty are doing to attract more students and increase the number of graduates entering the local workforce. 

“We have a dedicated team of professionals here at Blue Ridge Community College. Together, we have embraced changes across the board in order to help position the College to better serve our students.” Leatherwood points to revisions in the advising process, expanded registration periods, a robust new student orientation, improved communication methods with prospective students, and a targeted marketing and outreach campaign as examples of the changes needed to move the needle on student enrollment numbers. 

“Everything we do is about serving our students. Our faculty and staff work every day to remove barriers and provide as many resources as possible for our students.” Leatherwood and her team were paying attention to local and national trends, and working with local partners in economic development to tailor their approach and respond to opportunities. Henderson County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, yet continues to see job growth in advanced manufacturing and skilled trades. Nationally, community colleges continue to experience sluggish enrollment trends. “Our willingness to respond to regional workforce needs with new and innovative training opportunities, partnerships and collaboration have allowed Blue Ridge Community College to defy the odds. Our efforts now will result in a more skilled workforce for Henderson and Transylvania Counties, and a better-prepared student who wishes to transfer to a four-year university.”

College training programs such as nursing and surgical technology are at maximum capacity this year. These programs are housed at the Health Sciences Center in Hendersonville, a joint facility with Wingate University and Pardee UNC Health Care. The College’s Basic Law Enforcement Training program has also enrolled one of it’s largest classes in recent history. 

An in-depth review of Fall Semester 2018 enrollment statistics revealed a particular area of significant increase--490 high school students from Henderson and Transylvania Counties are taking college courses at Blue Ridge Community College through the Career and College Promise Program.

Career and College Promise is a statewide program that gives high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to get a "jump start" and earn college credit toward a two-year or four-year degree while still in high school. Students are dually enrolled in their high school and at Blue Ridge Community College, allowing them to receive both high school and college credit for courses taken through the program. The most popular benefit for students and families is that Career and College Promise classes are tuition-free. 

Blue Ridge has taken an aggressive approach to tackling workforce development needs in the region - and their efforts are getting noticed. The College’s Small Business Center received a “2nd in the state” ranking for the number of seminars, workshops, and consultations it provides to local entrepreneurs when compared to 58 other Small Business Centers across the state. Last year, the Small Business Center offered 114 seminars with more 2,200 attendees. Additionally, staff provided 400 hours of free small business counseling to 128 clients. “This ranking speaks volumes since the College is by no means the 2nd largest in the state system of community colleges, nor is our service area,” said Leatherwood. “The success of our SBC is due in large part to the many strong partnerships we share with countless community development organizations both here in our region and within the state.” Leatherwood noted such local entities as the Henderson and Transylvania County Chambers of Commerce, Henderson and Transylvania County Tourism Development Authorities, Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, Fletcher Area Business Association, and Transylvania Economic Alliance. The College has a long history of working with the Small Business Administration, Mountain Biz Works, and SCORE. 

Last month, the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board recognized Blue Ridge Community College, Henderson County Public Schools, and Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development for their collaborative workforce development efforts. The group has collaborated on industry tours for students, job fairs, and many other efforts to expose young students to the job opportunities in Henderson County. 

In 2017-18, Blue Ridge offered customized training programs for 14 manufacturing companies and served 72 companies through corporate training offerings. Unlike the curriculum or college credit enrollment period, the College’s workforce development division has ongoing registration throughout the semester. “We understand that workforce needs are constant; we make sure we are here for our regional employers when they need us,” said Leatherwood. 

As a result, more traditional growth benchmarks like those reported for curriculum enrollment are harder to define. However, one just needs to walk the halls of the Spearman Building to witness a flurry of activity constantly occurring with customized training for local manufacturers, or pop into Patton to witness planning and implementation of corporate training with area businesses and organizations. 

The College’s Educational Foundation embarked upon a bold annual campaign this year with a goal to raise $2 million for the College. One-quarter of the total, or $500,000, will provide scholarships to 500 high school graduates (class of 2019) from Henderson and Transylvania Counties. An additional $500,000 will go to address critical needs that may hold a potential student back from completing their education. “We want to remove as many barriers as possible in the life of a student,” said Leatherwood. “Whether that’s providing much-needed tuition support, or assisting with transportation or childcare costs, our community can help make an impact in the lives of our students and workforce by supporting this campaign.”