Regents discuss fall enrollment, coding acadamy

Enrollment, a new coding academy, and an update on bringing the CDL truck driving program back were among the topics discussed during the September meeting of the  South Plains College Board of Regents.

Dr. Stan DeMerritt, vice president of student affairs, presented the Fall 2018 enrollment. The total unduplicated headcount is at 9,300, 28 students fewer than a year ago. The Levelland Campus enrollment is 4,187, which is 24 less students than in 2017. The Reese Center campus has an enrollment of 2,210, 418 fewer students from last year. The Lubbock Center has 1,054, an increase of 270 students, and Plainview’s enrollment is 328, 24 less students from Fall 2017.

“For 2018, Dual Credit, Internet, and ITV all get counted into Levelland,” added Dr. DeMerritt. “That would total 9,165, compared to 2017 of 8,909. That’s up 256 from last year for Levelland, or 2.8 percent over 2017. That gain for Levelland is in the dual credit zone right there, as well as an increase of students across the Internet versus ITV.”

The total contact hours for SPC for Fall 2018 is 2,111,264. That is an increase of 167,696 hours over last year, or an 8.6 percent increase.

“So that’s very, very significant, because our funding comes off of these contact hours,” Dr. DeMerritt said. “A significant increase of that is from dual credit. We gained over 200 dual credit students. Most of those students are taking six or more hours of dual credit. Another significant increase is on the Levelland side, as science courses are all capped out. We’ve added more and more sections. But we can’t add any more sections because we have zero room in science.”

The Levelland contact hours total for 2018 is 1,556,017 hours, which is 77.73 percent of all contact. Compared to 2017, that would be 1,362,000, or a 14.2 percent increase over last year on contact hours.

Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of SPC, said, “Having this increase in contact hours enrollment is really phenomenal. This is outstanding news, 15.1 percent. That means we’ve got a lot more full-time students, we have fewer part timers and fewer students taking a small number of hours, and more taking more hours. And that’s what creates the successful student. That’s what we want. That’s the student we could possibly get.”

Dr. Ryan Gibbs, vice president for academic affairs, presented an update on the CDL truck driving school. SPC has been looking for a vendor to continue the truck driving training program that abruptly ended last year when the previous vendor pulled out at the end of the semester.

“We have asked for opinions from insurance and also from legal opinions on the contract,” Dr. Gibbs explained. “We are working through the contract and through purchasing here at the college. We hope to be wrapped up with that and bring it for the Board before our next meeting in October.”

SPC has given the potential vendor a tour of the Reese Center campus, where the program will be held.

“I think they were giddy, to say the least, about their potential for that facility to meet the needs of what their curriculum is, and also the needs for professional CDL drivers in this area,” Dr. Gibbs said. “It is a workforce development training course, but we can collect contact hours.”

Dr. Gibbs also presented plans for a Coding Academy that SPC, Texas Tech University and Lubbock Economic Development Alliance have been developing for the past 10 months. A coding academy is a shortened programing course to teach students how to write programing language for computers.
“What they do is they get them ready and prepared for the workforce in a truncated amount of time,” Dr. Gibbs explained. “I believe it’s nine weeks is the program we’re looking at. We have entered into negotiations of a contract with Austin Coding Academy out of Austin. We let them know that Austin Coding Academy is not a good name to have in this part of the country, and they have decided that it will be called Lubbock Coding Academy.”

According to Dr. Gibbs, the South Plains region has a growing IT industry. The IT industry is expected to continue to grow because companies are moving away from the high cost of living in California and Austin. They will also have access to the infrastructure needed to run an IT company on the South Plains.

“There’s a need for coders,” said Dr. Gibbs, “and this academy is going to start to meet that need. The goal is to start classes in January. My goal is to bring the contract for the next meeting. There’s a lot of pieces left to this one. We just started the negotiations, but I think we can get it done. Both of these programs are going to be high volume and produce a lot of graduates.”

The coding academy will have a flipped class environment, with most of the work done at home online. The class will meet twice a week for a two-hour time slot to work through problems and issues. They will also provide one-on-one tutoring to students who need help.

“They provide a lot of support for the students,” Dr. Gibbs said. “The best way to learn coding is to do it, and do it a lot, and that’s what they do. The first day they’re in there, they start coding. The idea is to teach classes of 20 students at a time, to keep a good student to teacher ratio. The idea is to do two sections of 20 every nine weeks.”

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