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Enrollment in noncredit courses is up at PHCC

Friday, January 17, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Enrollment in noncredit courses at Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) has risen steadily during the past four years.

College officials attributed the increase mainly to people trying to improve their job skills.

In the first six months of fiscal 2014, which began July 1, there were 3,338 enrollments in noncredit courses, statistics show. That is the total number of times that students enrolled in such courses for the period.

That number is up 8 percent from 3,100 enrollments for the first six months of fiscal 2013 — July through December of last year — and up 146 percent from 1,357 enrollments for the same period of fiscal 2010, figures show.

Rhonda Hodges, dean of workforce development and continuing education, did not have statistics showing the total number of students who enrolled in noncredit courses since July 1 of this year. The latest tally which she could find was 707 students enrolled as of the end of September.

Noncredit enrollment figures have been rising annually since fiscal 2011.

The largest increase was from 1,754 enrollments for the first six months of fiscal 2012 to the 3,100 for the same period in fiscal 2013, statistics show. That was a 77 percent surge.

PHCC’s 2013-2014 course catalog lists more than 100 noncredit courses.

Noncredit courses are ones that students, such as those pursuing four-year degrees, cannot transfer to other colleges. They include courses that people take just for fun, including arts classes such as woodworking, stained glass-making, pottery and painting.

They also include many professional development courses, ranging from computer and customer service training to classes needed to earn a National Career Readiness Certificate or a certificate in a particular industry or trade, said PHCC Public Relations and Marketing Manager Kris Landrum.

Students can take certain professional development courses on their own initiative. Still, some courses in that category are designed to help area companies train new hires or other employees, according to Hodges.

Landrum said many people take noncredit programs to learn or boost their skills “for immediate use,” such as in doing existing jobs or finding work.

Hodges added that as businesses have expanded or moved to the area, new jobs were created and people needed training to do them.

PHCC is “a good pipeline for people to come in and get skills they need” to do jobs available locally because companies trust the college, she said.

“As more job opportunities become available, we certainly plan” to work with employers to provide training needed for those jobs, Hodges added.

The college recently reported total enrollment of 3,163 students for the fall semester. That number reflects enrollment in courses for which credits are provided, officials said. Noncredit enrollment is counted separately.

Statistics show the college’s revenue from enrollment in noncredit courses increased from $134,528 for the first six months of the past fiscal year to $230,169 — a 71 percent hike — for the same period this fiscal year.

Hodges said tuition for certain noncredit skills training programs is as much as $3,500. Tuition covers PHCC’s costs for providing the courses as well as overhead costs such as building and equipment maintenance expenses.

Students who need financial aid may be able to get some through sources such as Henry-Martinsville Social Services and the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board, Hodges said.

Federal funds such as Pell Grants cannot be used for noncredit programs, she said.

PHCC President Angeline Godwin said the college should advocate for more financial aid for noncredit workforce development programs because they are a “tremendous value” to the community.


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