Ron Bartley, president of Northeastern Technical College, recently sat down with a group of NETC students to have an informal conversation about how the college can better serve its student population.
Bartley began this tradition of having an open dialog with students when he began serving as president of the college four years ago to learn what issues were important to NETC students.
Bartley began the meeting by addressing the decrease in state funding over the years and the gradual shift to relying on student tuition for operating costs.
“We don’t like having to fund the college on the backs of students so we try to keep tuition costs down, but the college does have to operate,” Bartley said. “Because of the lack of state funding, we are always looking for other opportunities in the community to supplement our programming needs.”
Bartley also talked about the strides NETC has made in increasing its online course offerings and in growing its Dual Enrollment/Dual Credit program that prepares high school students for college.
Kitty Jane Mollohan, a nursing prep student from Wallace, posed the first question about the college utilizing its Early Childhood Development program to provide daycare services on campus for students with children.
Bartley said there are strict rules and regulations for operating a child care center and the college does not have the staffing or the space at this time to accommodate such a service.
“If, however, you are asking us to be an advocate of service learning, we can do that,” Bartley said. “We fully support students gaining experiences outside the classroom where they can give back and learn something in return. We continue to produce excellent nursing students because of the valuable experiences they gain working with our local health care partners.”
Mollohan asked about NETC building a student canteen so students would not have to leave the campus to eat meals.
Bartley said food and parking are always two main concerns students have at every school, so the college is and has been working to address these issues.
“We’ve talked to food vendors about operating out of the facility we already have in place on campus that provides students with snacks and drinks and café style tables, but we have no takers,” Bartley said. “This does not mean, however, we’re going to give up on the student canteen.”
Justin Hawksworth, a student from McBee in the INA apprenticeship program, asked about the possibility of having apartments built near the college that could house NETC students. He said because students in the apprenticeship program have to take their classes at the Cheraw campus, some in the program who live as far away as Marion face high fuel costs in order to attend school.
Bartley explained that most of the schools in the S.C. Technical College System are considered “commuter colleges” because the majority of the students they serve reside in-state. For that reason, technical colleges do not receive state funding for housing.
“If enough students became advocates for off-campus housing, it could result in an outside entity addressing the need for housing near the college,” Bartley said. “This would be a great Student Government Association project to get behind.”
Hawksworth also asked about getting equipment upgraded in the Machine Tool Technology program.
“We have very generous industries in our service area who have made contributions to the NETC College Foundation to support program needs,” Bartley said, citing a recent donation from Takata Highlands. “We continue to seek out new partnerships with local industries and businesses that will grow our programs and services at all four of our campuses.”
Bartley and the students also discussed ways to grow school spirit and engage more students in activities on campus outside of going to class. Ideas were addressed for a homecoming celebration, sports teams, a college yearbook and cultural events such as talent shows and academic bowls.
“These types of activities need to be generated through student interest, so talk to your SGA members and fellow students to help them become advocates for things you’d like to see happening on campus,” Bartley said.
Because most of the students in the discussion group are nearing graduation, Bartley invited them to join the NETC Alumni Association, which requires no membership dues or fees.
“Northeastern Technical College has graduated about 30,000 students since it was established in 1969,” Bartley said. “The Alumni Association is a great way to connect with others and to stay connected with the College. Through the Alumni Association, you can help see these projects we discussed today come to fruition.”