Chris Gray, Ph.D.

Founding President, Erie County Community College 


My longtime readers know that I’m committed to creating systems that help afford our students access to an education that meets their scheduling needs.  From time of day to delivery modality, I believe that it’s the job of higher education to meet students where they are.  Today, I’d like to talk a bit about late-start classes, also known as “short-term” or “accelerated” courses, which are a fantastic way that EC3 offers a flexible and dynamic education to our students. You’ve probably heard the expression “better late than never,” right?  That’s the sentiment that I bring to this blog.  

Late-start classes are one of the ways that we reach out to students who need us.  Building a curriculum with courses that start every few weeks takes planning and intentionality; we work to ensure that the courses that we offer are offered in a way that makes sense and that helps our students seamlessly transition from one course to the next as they tick off one class after another from their degree or certificate program.  In other words, if the curriculum requires that students take courses A, B, C, and D in that order, then we build a curriculum that offers A, B, C, and D in that order; doing otherwise – say, offering C before B – would cause a delay in our students’ progress.  In my mind, that is unacceptable.  We owe it to our students to provide them with the most efficient and direct path to their educational dreams.   

Late-start classes are integral in this process. These classes typically begin later in the traditional academic term, allowing students to join the learning journey at their convenience. They serve as a valuable option for a variety of individuals with diverse needs and circumstances.  Our students have needs as varied as they are, and we aim to be as flexible as possible in meeting those needs.   

Our scheduling practices cater to students who may have missed the initial enrollment period or have scheduling conflicts with traditional semester-long courses. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for working adults, parents, or those juggling multiple responsibilities. Late-start classes enable these individuals to pursue education without disrupting their daily routines.  In addition, these courses are condensed, covering the same material as semester-long courses but in a shorter time frame. This intensity can be appealing to students who want to get a jump on a career change, for example, or who have changing work schedules that cannot accommodate a traditional semester’s timeline.  Sure, these courses do require intense focus and dedication because they impart the same amount of material in a shorter time, but they are fantastic for motivated students eager to acquire knowledge efficiently.  I’m a big believer in them.   

Mid-Fall Session courses here at EC3 begin on October 16, so there’s still plenty of time to join our ranks.  Since tuition is free to Erie County residents, this could be the perfect opportunity to start to pursue the career change or education that’s been your long-time goal.  It’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of college; for first-time students and returning adults alike, academia is its own little world.  A firm believer in transparency, however, I believe in pulling back the curtain and shedding light on how this works.  We’re going to be doing a lot of this over the next few weeks:   

We’re offering two open houses in the next month, and everyone is invited to attend:  first on Wednesday, September 20, and then second on Wednesday, October 11. You can find more details here.  If you’ve ever even sort of considered a college education, I really hope you’ll stop by to see what we’re all about.  There’s no obligation, and we are here to help you see if this is something that you’d like to do.   

If neither of those dates works with your schedule, we are also hosting an EC3 Community Day on Saturday, September 30 from 10:00am to 1:00pm at our Erie West Campus, located at 2403 W. 8th Street in Erie.  There, we’ll have a bounce house, food, the Kona Ice truck, yard games, crafts, therapy dogs, and local radio station Star 104 onsite and broadcasting for us. Attendees will also be able to tour the facility and get to know EC3 a bit better. This event is free, open to the general public, and sure to be a lot of fun.  I’m personally inviting you to pay us a visit. 

Later that same evening, again on Saturday, September 30, EC3 is hosting the opening night for the our minor league hockey team, the Erie Otters.  I’ve always been a big hockey fan, so I love events like this.  In fact, I’m actually going to be dropping the ceremonial puck, and we will have representatives on hand to answer questions about EC3.  Additionally, those in attendance will receive an EC3 t-shirt as well.  It will be a great evening! 

To put it mildly, it’s going to be a busy few weeks as we lead up to our Mid-Fall Session, but I hope that you’ll help spread the word – and that many of you will join us as well.  We are excited to meet you and help you get started!