Community college outgrowing campus

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 13, 2009

By David Vitrano


SORRENTO – River Parishes Community College in Ascension Parish is outgrowing its current location, according to Public Information Coordinator Angela Turner.

With a student population of approximately 1,800, the institution has seen a 38 percent increase in enrollment over last year. That is the highest increase in the state, said Turner.

The increase includes a 45 percent rise in students from St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes. Students from those two parishes make up about a quarter of the total student population.

Turner said RPCC already has looked at a couple possible new locations for the school but must get approval from the state Board of Regents before plans can be finalized.

The school currently operates out of a modest campus, with its most prominent building being the Jacob-Nassar House. The former sugar plantation home was built around the turn of the century and originally stood in Convent. Al Robert bought the structure in 1999 and moved it to its present location in Sorrento.

The school currently leases the site. Turner said that arrangement is the only one of its kind in the state.

A handful of other buildings comprise the rest of the campus.

Perhaps part of the draw for the college is the individualized education students receive there. According to Turner, many classes top out at 15 students. “They’re getting more personalized attention,” she said.

Also, RPCC has been steadily adding to its curriculum. Among the newer courses of instruction is an Associate of Science in teaching degree, in which students get practical classroom experience by serving as teaching assistants at St. Amant Primary School.

The school also is getting into the local green revolution by offering a general studies degree with a concentration in environmental science.

“We’re sort of kicking off the environmental science program,” said Turner.

Furthermore, students there take part in service learning projects, which instill in them a sense of social responsibility.

Turner said about 70 percent of RPCC’s students eventually go on to a four-year institution.