Tour highlights benefits of College of The Albemarle’s Barco campus – The Coastland Times
The tour highlights the benefits of the Barco campus of College of The Albemarle
Posted at 4:55 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15, 2022
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Planning for the future is an essential step in achieving any life goal and having a solid education has long been known to have a direct impact on anyone’s financial stability. But as a local community college proves, education doesn’t have to be a four-year program to help students succeed.
A hidden gem available to help local students with their education endeavors is the College of The Albemarle.
According to a May 19, 2022, US News & World Report article, nearly 30% of US undergraduates are enrolled in public two-year colleges.
Established in a renovated Elizabeth City hospital in the early 1960s, COA is the first community college in northeastern North Carolina within a network of 58 public community colleges statewide . Over the years, COA has grown from an initial class of 113 students to an annual enrollment of over 3,000 students with classes in Elizabeth City, Edenton, Manteo and Barco.
The newest of the college’s four locations, the facility at 107 College Way in Currituck Community Park in Barco opened in 2013, offering cutting-edge programs in aerospace technology, computer-integrated machining and computer-aided drafting plus a host of general education courses.
During a tour of the Barco campus on Oct. 20, Albemarle College President Jack Bagwell led a number of guests through an aviation classroom that includes several hundred square feet of suspension space plus an outdoor track explaining that students work on all types of aircraft. with their hands rather than a keyboard.
Along the way, Bagwell pointed out that while there are typical classrooms, others like the powerhouse room, where students work on turbine and piston engines, use sandblasters and sandblasters. parts, are anything but typical. There is also a sheet metal workshop and a paint booth.
“Flexibility should be central to everything we do,” Bagwell said. “A science lab today could be an HVAC lab tomorrow. So we have to be flexible.”
Another key point is that even though some people think that a community college only serves local residents, in reality there are students who travel long distances to be here.
“That’s largely true but not always the case,” Bagwell explained. “The college I came from in South Carolina was a lot like this one and we had programs that brought people from Alaska and Florida to South Carolina. Our aviation program has a similar draw as there aren’t many of them.
Walking through the aviation hangar, he went on to say that while enrollment numbers are down at nearly every college, he believes new FAA guidelines will allow for increased flexibility for learning centers. which, in turn, could help recruit more students into the program.
“We’ve done our kids a disservice by telling them there’s only one way,” Bagwell continued. “Telling them they have to be a doctor, a college professor, you have to be whatever doesn’t help the student.”
In agreement with this point was a member of the touring group, U.S. Representative Greg Murphy, RN.C.
“I agree with your view that we’ve done a disservice by steering everyone into a four-year degree program,” Murphy said. “Much of this is seen with student debt. The idea that all students must pursue a four-year degree is absolutely absurd.
Murphy then added that he thought the early high school and college curriculum was fantastic because it would introduce students at a younger age to the idea that they don’t necessarily need a four-year school. .
“Through a business program, they can get a great education and have a fantastic career and a wonderful life,” he added.
Speaking on the issue of student debt, Bagwell then recounted an experience where he saw students spend a few hundred thousand dollars or more to get a job that pays $50,000 a year with debt. The other side of the coin is that a student could enroll in a trades program and, after one or two years, earn between $75,000 and $100,000 a year without any debt.
“Who’s the smartest kid at the end of the day?” He asked.
Adding to the discussion, North Carolina House of Representatives for the 6th District, Paul O’Neal, also a member of the tour group, shared the experiences of two local families.
A student graduated from the CAD program in his twenties and works at the Coast Guard base for $30 an hour. The other student one semester out of the program was employed by Caterpillar and now earns over $30 an hour.
“They’re young,” O’Neal said. “They didn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to college. They came here and left without debt. I would say it’s like having a lead after the start line before everyone else. And when you consider that community colleges get 54 cents of every dollar universities get, I’d say we do a much better job of producing productive citizens than universities do. We don’t do gender studies and things like that. We teach people how to work and give them skills so they can go out and be productive citizens.
Bagwell then pointed to the little-known fact that the COA does not provide loans to federal college students.
“Some students accumulate that kind of debt at other community colleges,” Bagwell explained. “But the students who come to the COA are not in debt. Students can get private loans, we had four this year, but we don’t necessarily promote them.
For those in need of financial assistance, private scholarships are available, as well as workforce development funds and several North Carolina programs that have funds.
“We actually made a conscious decision years ago when I was on the board not to give out federal student loans,” O’Neal explained.
“Yeah, we took them years ago,” Bagwell added. “But then we backed off. Enrollment is down at community colleges and even here at COA, but we don’t want to grow for growth. We focus on quality programs and the partnerships we have in place help us do a very good job.
According to Bagwell, partnerships with Currituck County and local businesses have allowed COA to expand program offerings. Currently, the County Public Safety Center classrooms and labs provide educational space for general education classes, basic law enforcement training, emergency medical science, first aid -nursing, advanced law enforcement training, basic and advanced aviation sheet metal, private pilot ground school, airport ground operations and safety, mechanic examiner test prep designated, forklift operator, several machining, CAD/CAM, lathe and axis milling programs.
COA also offers high school juniors or seniors with a GPA of 2.8 or higher a dual-enrollment program that can help accelerate the attainment of certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees, important steps that can lead to university credit transfers or provide entry-level professional skills.
For those interested, the COA offers credit programs for degree-seeking students who want to transfer credit to a four-year school or acquire a two-year degree in addition to several non-credit courses for anyone who wants to improve or learning skills for a job or taking courses for fun or personal interest.
For more information on the programs offered at COA – Currituck, call 252-453-3035.