Enrollment drop at KCC no concern to chancellor

A drop of nearly 10 percent in student enrollment at Kaua’i Community College for the current spring semester, from 1,060 last spring to 956 now, doesn’t faze Chancellor Peggy Cha, she said.

“Employment is so hot on this island that people are choosing to go to work instead of going to college. That’s a good thing,” she said.

Still, KCC leaders are ramping up outreach programs, and looking at tweaking the summer and fall schedules of classes, both expected to be released in April, in order to make them more user-friendly for working students.

“It’s just a matter of making some adjustments to our schedule,” to lure working students back to campus.

People know that college graduates make more money than high-school graduates, said Cha, adding that half of the new jobs being created on Kaua’i will require at last some post-high-school education.

And, for the value, there is no place better than a hometown community college, and KCC, for students to begin their college-education quest, she feels.

“There is no question in my mind that there is no better value than the AA (associate’s of arts degree) program for families,” where students can get the first two years of schooling out of the way, live at home, work, and save half the money the same education would cost at a four-year school, she said.

“Our community college is a wonderful place to start your educational search.”

While state lawmakers approved funding for one new nursing faculty position and another new nursing teaching position next year, there is still a backlog of students waiting to get into the nursing program at the Puhi campus, she said.

“Some students are coming back to us from other places, because everybody is full to the gills.”

She advised those interested in getting into the nursing program to apply now, because admission is on a first-qualified, first-applied basis.

While the culinary-arts program at the college is well — known, and still a popular program especially given the strength of the island’s visitor, hotel and restaurant industries, Cha pointed out an interesting development in another program at the college.

Since the Enron accounting scandal and attending changes in federal law and the way accountants police themselves, there is a growing need for bright, professional accountants.

Enter KCC.

“We have an extremely strong program on our campus,” and small class sizes, versus the 200-student, auditoriumsized classes that allow for no student questions and limited student-instructor interaction, Cha said.

The ratio at KCC is one instructor to 20 or 25 students, and teachers like Al Spencer and Rae Nishikawa engage students, making for “a much, much better learning environment” than at larger schools, said Cha.

Staff members at KCC are also working hard to get students into technology courses, she continued. While the auto-body classes are full, other automotive courses, and electronics classes, have space.

The electronics students are preparing to become sought-after technicians, or using the basic training provided at KCC as a stepping stone to a four-year electronics degree, she explained.

Pre-programs, for those students who haven’t reached necessary math-skills levels to effectively succeed in college, are also popular, she said.

Earlier this week, 14 Waimea High School seniors got a step closer to experiencing their aspirations of careers in the culinary-arts field, touring KCC’s culinary-arts department.

The students, with the high school’s culinary academy program, arrived for a tour that culminated with the students being able to experience the college’s fine dining experience.

Karyn Poulton, advisor of the three-year-old program at Waimea, said the students were getting a feel for the school’s upcoming Career Day, when they would again be preparing food for the event’s presenters.

Although the class numbers 16 students, Poulton said two were unable to make the trip to KCC, but will be working with fellow students on Career Day.

Mark Oyama, one of the KCC culinary-arts instructors, noted that it’s good training for the students, and added that, prior to the Career Day scheduled for Feb. 22, the students will also spend some time shadowing KCC students in the kitchen, to get some hands-on experience.

Poulton confirmed this, noting that Menehune students will be shadowing at KCC on three days later this month, two of them prior to the Waimea Career Day.

This will be followed by a job-shadow-day experience with members of the culinary staff at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in Po’ipu on Feb. 28.

But, Poulton said the highlight comes on March 2, when the academy students, with the help of Stella Burgess, will gather at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in Po’ipu.

Poulton said that, at the Hyatt gathering, the academy students will be broken down into three groups, and will prepare dishes for their peers.

One group of students will work with appetizers, another will prepare main dishes, and the third will work on desserts, Poulton said.

All of the students who visited the KCC campus are seniors, and Poulton said that about half of them are planning to attend KCC to further their culinary-arts aspirations.

Billy Gibson, another of the KCC culinary-arts instructors, said, “They are our strongest feeder schools. But, one girl said she’s going to Kapi’olani (Community College on O’ahu).”

Gibson said that enrollment in the culinary-arts department is down slightly, but within the scope of the KCC campus, the program’s enrollment is strong.

Students who are in the Menehune Culinary Arts Academy include Nathan Reyes, Joshua Rivera, Sonya Tacub, Danielle Kamakea, Leo Butac, Argie Mangayayam, Brysen Andaya, Reynold Dela Cruz, Braden Hiraoka, Troy Yamase, Alden Lahip, Nainoa Thomas-Place, Earl-Jay Padilla, Cyril Bothello, Kendra Kanahele, and Caity Duarte.

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