River Parishes Community College opening in fall

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 18, 1999

By MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / January 18, 1999

LAPLACE – Soon students in the River Parishes from ages 18 to 80 will get an opportunity to further their education.

The River Parishes Community College, the newest component in the Louisiana Community College system, will take in its first students this fall. The college will be located in Sorrento, adjacent to the LouisianaTechnical College – Ascension Campus on Airline Highway. A permanentcampus in the Sorrento area is probably about three years away.

Dr. Joe Ben Welch, president of the River Parishes Community College,said much of the credit for the college should go to state Sen. LouisLambert, a long-time proponent of the community college system. With thebacking of Gov. Mike Foster, a bill creating the state community collegesystem governing board passed the Louisiana state Legislature in 1997 and was passed by voters in the November 1998 elections.

The River Parishes Community College is an open admissions institution.

The college may accept any student who has a high school diploma or equivalent. High school students 16 years of age or older may be admittedprovisionally upon meeting specific criteria.

The college will offer a full cross-section of remedial courses for those who might not meet basic college entry requirements. The school’scurriculum will include courses and programs leading to certificates and associate degrees. Welch also said credits earned at the school will befully transferable to any four-year degree. A non-credit life enrichmentcurriculum will also be offered. The college also wants contract trainingand programming to assist and attract industry to the area.

Welch said he is expecting students from four to eight surrounding parishes based on the experience of the vo-tech school. He said he hasalready gotten a lot of phone calls and that administrators have started collecting names and addresses of perspective high school students.

Schedule books and catalogs are currently being published, and a staff is in the process of being brought in.

School officials are also traveling around the area looking for potential sites to hold off-site classes. Chief Information Officer Debra Holden saidthe colleges have been encouraged to offer classes off site. Officials havealready been to the school boards in St. John and St. James parishes,requesting permission to negotiate with the area principals for use of classrooms.

“Everybody has been positive about the whole concept,” Welch said.

The college is funded through the state. The college will participate in thePell grant program as well as federal financial grant and loan programs.

Students are also welcome who are eligible to participate in the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS).

Welch said he is expecting 300 to 400 students the first semester and estimated that the average age of the students will be around 30. Welchsaid the college offers those who might not have been able to attend college a chance to better their education as well as making easier for those with work or family obligations to attend class.

“It is a second chance for a lot of people,” Welch said. “They can upgradetheir present job or change careers. The doors are wide open.”Executive vice president Bill Martin added that there is a need for a large group of part-time facility, and that if anyone is interested on teaching on a part-time basis to contact him at the school.

For additional information on the River Parishes Community College or an application packet, call (225) 675-8270.

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