This fall, Holmes Community College in Ridgeland will kick off the Weekend College, an innovative alternative in a non-traditional course format for working folks who wish to receive an associate’s degree or technical certificate, said Dr. Therrell Myers, center director.
“To my knowledge, we’re the only community college in the area that is providing a Weekend College experience for our students,” said Myers. “We worked on this concept for a year, conducting research across this country, looking at different formats and models, reviewing enrollment trends of other colleges that offer various programs. We also conducted local surveys and listened to those persons who wanted to change their careers. We wanted to address the needs of working adults.”
The Weekend College, which will be offered only at the Ridgeland campus, will begin with a two-year associate of applied science program in computer network support technology. Career opportunities include systems administrator, user support analyst, network control operator, microcomputer support analyst, telecommunications manager, software or hardware administrator or Webmaster, Myers said.
“Ultimately, the future in telecommunications and industry technology is networking, understanding and knowledge,” he said.
Courses, such as computer concepts, fundamentals of data communications and operating platforms, will be offered on a semester basis at the same rate as other classes — $50 per semester hour.
“The beauty of this is that we assure our students the technical courses will be offered over this cycle as well as the academic courses that go along with them, if necessary,” he said. “Those courses can be taken on other evenings, if desired.”
The concern of “whether or not a class is going to make” will not be a problem, Myers said.
“We have committed ourselves to serve working adults and to assure them that we are guaranteeing classes will make,” he said. “Sometimes, low enrollment might be a problem, but we are guaranteeing our students a whole cycle of courses — fall, spring, summer. We’re offering courses in a very consistent sequence.”
In 1922, with the approval of the state legislature, Holmes County Agricultural High School added two years of college studies to its curriculum. In 1928, Holmes Junior College became eligible to award associate of art degrees. Since then, college support has expanded to include Carroll, Attala, Madison, Choctaw, Montgomery, Grenada, Webster and Yazoo counties. In 1985, new centers were built in Grenada and Ridgeland. Four years later, the name was changed to Holmes Community College.
“We have qualified, professional classroom teachers who are business people with varied backgrounds working with new equipment in new state-of-the-art labs to produce a Weekend College program that is very cost-effective,” he said.
During the planning and research phase of the Weekend College concept, there was an unexpected dilemma — defining weekends, Myers said.
“Very honestly, one of the things you wouldn’t think would be a concern is that we had to define weekend,” he said. “Some colleges offered weekend courses on Saturdays, some on Fridays and Saturdays. We were already aggressively offering evening courses on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.”
In the end, the school decided to offer classes Thursday and Friday nights, from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Saturday mornings, from 8:30 a.m. until noon, he said.
“We will be able to handle 20 students in each class,” Myers said. “Based on the telephone calls we are receiving, we may need to offer dual sections of each of these so we may be as high as 40. Most of the people who are calling us are already degreed people who are changing their careers. We’re learning that people want to come back to school and upgrade their skills. It’s difficult to get off work and go back to school. It’s only under the leadership of Dr. Starkey A. Morgan, our school president, that we’ve been able to make this concept a reality.”
The Weekend College is the reverse of HCC’s work/study program where full-time students are placed in a work-based learning environment, he said.
“This does not tie in with the work/study program at all,” Myers said.
Business and office-related programs may be offered next, Myers said.
Registration for Weekend College classes will be held Aug. 17-18. Inaugural classes begin Saturday, Aug. 21.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.