Notes from the President

Chris Gray, Ph.D. | Founding President, Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania

Back in my home state of Illinois, there’s a mattress company that prides itself on producing a sales experience free of hassles. The showrooms are devoid of hovering salespeople, and there is no haggling over costs, no pressure to buy, and no drama for customers. The company, as its name indicates, promises a “hassle-free” experience. As much as this sounds like basic common sense in action, it’s actually quite an innovative concept. But really, shouldn’t this kind of drama-free approach be the goal always? You’d certainly think so.

Alas, there are many instances in which this is not the case. For example, a friend of mine recently had to deal with an identity theft situation. Someone opened a fraudulent checking account in her name despite her credit, utilities, and Chex Systems accounts being frozen. And guess what? Even with all these precautions, it was a complete hassle and a wasted day for my friend trying to get it all sorted out, even with Lifelock protection in place. While there are certain protections for people who fall victim to this kind of fraud, it nonetheless is a gigantic hassle that causes needless frustration – not to mention lost time – when it happens. The concept of a hassle-free experience is one that appeals to me increasingly as, the older I get, the more I realize the true value of time, and the less I am inclined to squander it on useless nonsense. 

I’ve written before about how we here at EC3 are committed to providing an experience free of hassles for our students, and this post expands a bit on that philosophy. We are just about ready to begin our twelve-week fall courses for the Fall 2022 semester, and this late-start scheduling is one way that we continue to eliminate the hassles that will impede our students’ success.

The traditional model of higher education offers a very strict schedule in which the academic year is divided into semesters. The first begins in late August or early September, and the second begins in January. Institutions usually have a limited summer semester, only offering a few courses here and there. While this model persists because it has served the traditional college student quite well, it’s too restrictive for many modern students and their increasingly complex needs. Under this old model, a student who missed one of these three entry points was simply out of luck until the next arrived months later. For classes offered only once per year, this could delay their academic progress significantly. And that, dear readers, is a giant hassle. 

Our staggered course start system here at EC3 is designed to recognize and accommodate the kinds of flexibility that our students need and deserve as they entrust us to help them along the way on their educational journey. The students joining us for the twelve-week courses come to us for any variety of reasons, including but not limited to ending seasonal employment, reverse transfers from four-year residential institutions, relocation and other life changes, or newly assigned career training. For these students, flexibility is non-negotiable. The difference that three months can make is absolutely monumental in their lives.

While it is impossible to eliminate hassles completely from society, and while mistakes certainly can and do happen, it seems only logical to me that our duty to our students as our stakeholders is to clear the road of as many bumps as possible. Some hassles, of course, are inevitable, but they shouldn’t be part and parcel of the educational experience. I’m hoping that the approach that we are taking at EC3 becomes the new normal for educational institutions in the years to come. We need a common-sense approach now more than ever, and our students deserve it!