By Stefanie Jackson – New Eastern Shore Community College President James Shaeffer addressed the Accomack County School Board Tuesday night on a variety of challenges facing ESCC that could affect high school students interested in taking dual-enrollment classes or obtaining an associate degree after graduation.
“I’m not going to talk about the fact that we’re going through a three-year reboot,” said Shaeffer, who prefers to call the exercise a “refresh.”
“If you have to reboot, you’re not doing anything right, and that college is doing a lot of things that are right,” he said.
Total enrollment at ESCC is 214, down by nine students from 223 last year. But fewer students are taking more courses, Shaeffer said.
There are 117 Accomack students participating in dual enrollment at the community college: 53 from Nandua High School, 48 from Arcadia High School, 15 from Chincoteague High School, and one from Tangier Combined School.
Shaeffer observed four problems compounded by ESCC’s financial challenges.
He called the community college a food desert and said eating junk food from a vending machine is not a good way for a student to start the day.
But the ESCC Foundation has decided to invest $1,500 in starting a new program that will provide healthy snacks to ESCC students from breakfast time until 4 p.m. every day. ESCC has also received a $4,600 grant that will help fund the program, Shaeffer said.
Homelessness and lack of transportation are other issues some ESCC students face, he said.
Some potential ESCC students can’t enroll due to financial need. The ESCC Foundation is working to create more scholarships to address that issue, Shaeffer said.
He wrapped up on a positive note by announcing that ESCC now offers an associate degree in industrial technology. Students who pursue this degree will learn about mechanics, electric, hydraulics, pneumatics, welding, and HVAC.
A student could transfer the credits earned to a four-year school or go straight into the workforce with a “good paying career, without having to leave the Shore,” Shaeffer said.
School board member Jesse Speidel and vice chairman Ronnie Holden spoke in favor of a community college education.
A full year at ESCC, including tuition, books, and transportation, costs about $8,000, Shaeffer said.
Community college shouldn’t be viewed as the “last chance to get a higher education,” he said. “It’s your best economical decision.”