Notes from the President
Chris Gray, Ph.D. l Founding President, Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania
We’ve made it to Labor Day weekend! The first holiday of the semester and the last weekend of meteorological summer have arrived, and our students are settling nicely into their classes and coursework. As we finish out the second week of our second Fall semester, we have some more fantastic news to celebrate. In a time where higher education enrollments are trending downward, particularly in community colleges, I’m pleased to report that our Fall 2022 enrollment sits at just about 2,000 credit hours, a marked increase over last year’s numbers. More Erie County residents chose to entrust us to help them reach their educational goals, and we have every reason to believe that our numbers will continue to trend upward as word about EC3PA’s commitment to student success spreads.
To better put these numbers into context, let me explain another new and exciting program at EC3PA. A portion of the larger enrollment number comes from the launch of our new Dual Degree cohort for the Erie School District. This program runs from August 22 until December 16, 2022, and is housed at our EC3 West location on West 8th Street. Dual degree programs offer a fantastic opportunity for students to get a jump on their college coursework while still enjoying their final years in high school at the same time. Courses in these kinds of programs satisfy graduation requirements at both the high school and the college level, so students are literally working toward both their high school diploma and their Associate’s degree simultaneously.
The inaugural Dual Degree cohort is comprised of twenty students who entered their junior year of high school and are college-ready in both English and Math. These students attend their normal high school classes in the morning, and then they head our way to attend classes in the afternoon at EC3 West. If these students complete all required courses throughout their junior and senior year of high school, they will graduate in two years with their high school diploma along with an Associates of Arts Degree from EC3PA concurrently.
What a wonderful opportunity this affords our students! Even for the most academically prepared and college-ready student, it is a big transition moving from a high school to a college setting, and students often struggle. This Dual Degree program offers a sort of soft launch for students – a chance to try out college while still surrounded by their friends and finishing out their final high school years. They can still attend high school functions and participate in extracurricular activities, but they are also becoming familiar with college-level coursework expectations and learning to navigate our campus. This exposure can help some students to decide their future career path more easily and also to move out into the working world sooner.
We anticipate this program expanding in time, but it’s important to realize that we are not scaling back our offerings for EC3PA students who come to us after high school graduation or who return to us later in life. This is not, in other words, a compulsory program, nor do we expect it to be. Rather, in our commitment to serve Erie County residents as fully, completely, and creatively as possible, this is another way in which we are able to help new students find their way. Our small but mighty cohort is off to a fantastic start, and I am most excited to see how they progress!