January 24, 2007
TCC Jockeying to Handle Student Influx
By MATTHEW BOWERS
BY MATTHEW BOWERSTHE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
CHESAPEAKE - A student in this city just might be able to graduate from one portable classroom at a crowded high school into another portable classroom at a crowded community college.
Tidewater Community College has seen its 10th straight year of record enrollment, growing 6.7 percent last fall to the equivalent of 14,296 full-time students - which is defined as one student taking 30 credit hours per year.
At the Chesapeake campus, TCC converted a lounge and a conference room into classrooms. The campus also has added classes earlier in the morning, later on Friday and on weekends, said Frank Dunn, vice president for administration.
Students now use empty science labs for English, math and philosophy classes, too.
TCC accounted for 26 percent of the growth of the 23 schools within the Virginia Community College System, which reached a new enrollment high, officials announced last week.
Growing fastest of the four-campus TCC family is Chesapeake, up 12 percent or 268 full-time equivalent students .
The rising enrollment numbers has TCC asking the General Assembly this year to add $32.3 million to its budget for a multi-story classroom building to join the two buildings at the Chesapeake campus on Cedar Road by 2009.
In the meantime, officials are looking at off-campus rental spaces and portable classrooms, or trailers - a long symbol of the crowded city public schools.
"We're out of space," President Deborah DiCroce told college board members last week.
The Chesapeake campus has used two trailers for more than a decade, but not for general education classes.
Students, many of them veterans of the city's school trailers, shrugged about the prospect.
"If it makes classes smaller, it's not so bad," said Jennifer Helgeson, a first-year student.
"I've got classes where every seat is taken," said David Kiracofe, an associate professor of history. "When they're packed, they're packed. You can fit all the desks in there, but when you put all the bodies in there, it gets pretty tight."
Space may be even tighter at the Virginia Beach campus off Princess Anne Road, Dunn said.
For years it has used three trailers plus vacant classrooms next door in the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center shared by Old Dominion and Norfolk State universities. That cooperation is notable because TCC has been embroiled in a standoff over ODU's attempts to expand offerings in the center that it says duplicate what the community college teaches.
All campuses also use hybrid courses - part online, part face-to- face instruction - so they "can book two classes in the same classroom at the same time," Dunn said.
TCC is the second largest of Virginia's community colleges, with 24,938 students this year.
"We've had a large increase in full-time students," particularly those planning to transfer their credits toward bachelor's degrees elsewhere, said Lisa Kleiman, director of institutional effectiveness. "We certainly have the price factor."
Statewide, Virginia's community colleges grew this year by 5,670 full- and part-time students, a 3.7 percent increase to a record count of 159,202, and more than a 10 percent increase in the past five years.
Nearly one out of two - 47 percent - of Virginia students beginning their higher education at a public institution last fall did so at a community college, according to the community college system.
Reach Matthew Bowers at (757) 222-3893 or matthew.bowers@ pilotonline.com.
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