While the number of adults attending Bastrop's Louisiana Delta Community College’s regular education courses has declined over the past few months, the number of inquiries for those seeking to enter its high school diploma, or GED training program, has exceeded expectations.
While the number of adults attending Bastrop's Louisiana Delta Community College’s regular education courses has declined over the past few months, the number of inquiries for those seeking to enter its high school diploma, or GED training program, has exceeded expectations. Lo Dunn, interim assistant Campus Dean for the local campuses, says it has one teacher for the program. It needs two more teachers to match the student load. “We are just bursting at the seams with that,” Dunn said. “Seventy-five percent of our calls are for the GED program.” At the two Bastrop campus sites, adults can pursue courses and associates degrees in such fields as industrial electronics technology, nursing assistants, business office administration and welding. When the local population invests in workplace skills, it helps attract more local businesses because there's a larger available skilled workforce, she said. “We are the catalyst for that,” Dunn said. The local college consolidated under the management of the regional community college system earlier this year. The move increased academic flexibility for both course options and credit transference to and from other colleges. But with it also came increased tuition costs by about 25 percent. Despite the fact that its tuition is far less expensive than those at a typical four-year college or university, the costs have been a barrier to a certain degree, Dunn said. She calculated that the Bastrop campus has 60 fewer students than this time last year. One major factor, she said, is that potential students have a limited number of college loan applications they are eligible to receive to afford it. An adult must have a GED or high school diploma to be eligible for a Pell Grant. But she's optimistic. Dunn said that the long-term outlook for student enrollment at the community college is favorable because it's anticipated that a large proportion of GED prep students now will transition into the college's workforce degree programs later. “When I started (working in community college) in 1980 there was no tuition cost,” Dunn reflected. The expenses are a sign of the changing times, she noted. “There are costs, but it's not like there are no roads for students' journey for higher education.”