Enrollment numbers going up at RPCC

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 6, 2010

By David Vitrano


SORRENTO – The enrollment at River Parishes Community College has exceeded 2,000 students for the first time in the school’s history.

The school’s current enrollment of 2,151 students represents a 20 percent increase over last year’s numbers.

While about half of those students come from the school’s home parish of Ascension, St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles parish residents make up about a quarter of the student population. According to the latest figures, St. James has 300 students enrolled, St. John has 207 students enrolled, and St. Charles has 38 students enrolled.

RPCC Public Information Coordinator Brandon Keller attributed the growth to a variety of factors, including the popularity of dual-enrollment courses, a shift in the state’s educational focus and the economy.

“People are seeing it as a good time to get additional training,” he said.

Also, this year is the first time RPCC is offering dual-enrollment classes to students at East St. John High School. The school has served high school students in St. James Parish off and on for the past decade. Recently, students in St. James had been attending Nicholls State University for their dual-enrollment needs, but because of the current fiscal situation, the school was no longer going to be able to offer all classes free of charge. Consequently, the St. James Parish School System once again entered into an agreement with RPCC. St. James currently has 103 students from Lutcher High School and 35 students from St. James High School enrolled in dual-enrollment classes at RPCC.

The dual enrollment agreement with East St. John is a little different than most dual enrollment programs. Instead of the high school students traveling to RPCC’s campus, instructors come to the high school to conduct college-level classes in biology, chemistry and English. Currently, 29 East St. John students take advantage of this program.

To accommodate the ever-expanding student population, RPCC has plans in the works to relocate to a larger campus.

According to Keller, in 2007 the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 391, which set aside bond money for capital outlay projects for the Louisiana Community and Technical Colleges System. Bonds for the planned move were sold at the end of August 2010. Additionally, the Board of Regents set aside $2 million for the purchase of land.

“It looks like all the stars are aligning for RPCC,” said Keller.

The two pieces of land the college is considering purchasing both lie just off of Interstate 10 near Gonzales.

One lies within the city limits, so infrastructure is already in place.

The other lies in an unincorporated section of Ascension and is undeveloped. The first option would require less preparation before construction can begin, while the second would give the college more land but also require more work.

Keller said the state should hand the college a decision on the land purchase by the end of the year, and land acquisition should happen sometime in early 2011.

While plans and dates cannot be finalized until the state acts, he said that based on a similar project in Monroe, the new campus should be ready about 18 months after ground is broken.