The school bell no longer rings just at 8 AM at some community colleges. Campuses are starting classes at 6 AM, but how effective could these early classes be?
As more students flock to community colleges today, the institutions are staying ahead of rising enrollment with creativity and flexibility. The newest offering at many community colleges across the country is early class times that allow for additional course offerings, as well as work around professional students' busy schedules.
However, do classes before dawn really make the grade? We looked at three different community colleges with early course offerings to find the answer.
"Early Bird" Classes at Gateway
Gateway Community College in Connecticut is just one of the many colleges opening up their campuses for early birds. According to a report in the Hartford Courant, Gateway will begin offering its first set of "early bird classes" during its fall semester. The courses will begin at 6:30 in the morning, which will let out by 8 a.m., giving you plenty of time to make it to your day job.
"If you work the average day shift, this could be a simple way to get a class done before you go to work," Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Kosinski states on the college's website. Kosinski also told the Courant, "We are constantly looking for new ways to meet the needs of our diverse student body so we'll be looking closely at the results of this pilot to see whether it should be expanded beyond the fall semester."
In addition to adding flexible scheduling for professional students who are earning degrees while working full-time, the earlier schedules will provide more courses for Gateway's overflowing student body. Gateway Community College is one of the fastest growing schools in the state, with enrollment up at least 8% just from the previous school year. Individuals who take morning classes will also avoid the crowds at the college, which typically begin to build for the evening classes.
Rising Early at St. Cloud
St. Cloud Technical and Community College in Minnesota is also encouraging students to rise early and hit the books, according to a report at WCCC News. This school has particularly seen a rising demand in courses in the health sciences, and it now offers one of the most popular classes in the program at 6:30 a.m. The class was first offered by St. Cloud last fall, and it quickly filled up. A waiting list was even started to accommodate additional students.
The professor of the course, Liz Burand, was the person who suggested the early time frame in the first place. Burand told WCCC, "Some of them [students in the class] are here because they like it at 6:30 in the morning, it's convenient for them. Others are here because it's the only thing that was left and they have to."
Burand works to help the students overcome sleepiness so early in the morning by keeping her lectures short and getting to hands-on activities as soon as possible. Some students find once they are in the course, they actually enjoy the earlier schedule and look for other early bird offerings the next semester. One of the students of the class, Aimee Klein, said in the WCCC piece, "The early morning classes have the serious people, the ones that have work and take it more seriously."
New Jersey Sunrise Sessions
Hudson County Community College in New Jersey has also followed suit, offering "sunrise sessions" for a number of their popular course selections. Students can choose to take subjects like English, math, business and computers as early as 6:50 a.m. The early classes began in January of this year, and they have quickly gained popularity with the students.
"We realized there is a very real need to make provisions for our students who, because of work or personal demands, simply cannot take classes any time but early morning," Hudson County Community College President Dr. Glen Gabert states on the college website. The college has increased staff, classrooms and registration to accommodate those who prefer the sunrise sessions to traditionally scheduled courses. They have even extended book store hours and negotiated reduced rates on parking fees for early risers. All of the classes meet for about an hour, two days a week, and they allow students to get from their school desks to office desks on time.
Community colleges have a longstanding reputation for working with students from all walks of life to help them get the training and education they need to succeed in life. With additional course times set even earlier in the day, there are few professionals looking for a career change who cannot find a community college ready and able to meet their specific needs.
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