Notes from the President

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

It’s no surprise that, as we close the door on EC3PA’s first academic year, we once again shift our focus forward to what comes next. With the spring semester finished, next up on our immediate radar is the process of launching our first summer session. We’ve timed this session to begin immediately following Memorial Day and to end before August, thereby giving students some downtime both before and after this abbreviated semester.

By the end of the academic year, students are tired, and they need a break from the intellectual labor that comes with rigorous college-level courses. Jumping from spring semester immediately into summer courses might help some students who thrive on consistency and routine, but my experience is that students need a bit of a breather just as they need spring break in March. Those who do take summer courses will similarly need another breather in which to rest up before they return to do it all again in fall. It’s a cycle of work and rest that is important for any institution focused on student success to acknowledge and respect.

Logistically, in addition to determining what courses to offer, timing is likewise crucial when scheduling summer classes. Institutions of higher learning must take myriad considerations into account and perform a sort of balancing of the equities when selecting the period in which they will offer a summer course schedule. If the semester begins too early, students in high school miss the opportunity to enroll to jumpstart their college journey because they have not yet graduated. If it begins too late, students leaving to attend a transfer institution miss the opportunity to attend because classes begin at their destination school before the summer semester ends at their current school.  So we’ve got to get it right!  It’s a delicate dance, but it’s one that we learned and implemented based on our best understanding of how we can serve the greatest number of students. 

As I’ve mentioned before, summer classes offer a way for students to catch up or jump ahead in their course of study, often freeing up a bit more margin in their spring and fall schedules.  It’s important that we offer summer course options, but at the same time, we don’t want to make summer semester obligatory for our students because we realize that seasonal labor and increased childcare responsibilities ramp up in summer as schools let out and outdoor employment increases.  We want to support, not create a barrier for our students’ academic progress. 

As of this writing, we’re just over two weeks away from the start of summer classes, and we are offering nineteen of the most commonly needed courses in a condensed eight-week format.  We have in-person and online offerings, and our in-person offerings are a mixture of daytime and evening classes because a year of experience has told us that these are the kinds of options that our students need from us.  At last count, we had over a hundred students enrolled, and we expect that number to climb because enrollment often jumps in the final days before a new semester begins.

It’s undeniable that summer brings with it a different kind of energy, but at the same time, we have more excitement on tap for fall. As we begin our second year of operation, we are pleased to offer more degree and certificate programs for our students as well. EC3PA is growing and expanding to meet student and community needs, just as we planned. I promise to dive deeper into this topic in a future blog, so please stay tuned.

As I wrap up this post the same week that we as an institution wrapped the Spring 2022 semester, I can’t help but hear the words from the iconic 1990s song by Semisonic: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” That’s definitely where we are at EC3PA right now, and every day continues to bring something new and exciting.