If thoughts of self-improvement dance in your head as the new year gets under way, we've got three words of advice for you: Kenai Peninsula College.
The new semester begins next week, but this week is a great opportunity to check out what the college has to offer. New student orientation is scheduled for today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 6 to 10 p.m.
The college also is hosting an open house from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. The event offers people a chance to explore the KPC campus off Kalifornsky Beach Road and sample some college fare in the form of mini sessions being offered throughout the day.
Although KPC is seeing its biggest growth in students between the ages of 18 and 23, the average age of students at KPC is 36. Students range from high schoolers to grandparents 60, 70 and older.
The consensus is that the mixture of ages, backgrounds and experiences makes courses all the richer for young and old alike.
If you think "college" isn't for you, a visit to KPC may cause you to alter your way of thinking.
Last semester, almost 1,500 students were enrolled in classes at either the Soldotna or Kachemak Bay branch of KPC, and only 319 of them were full-time students. An additional 200 students took courses for no credit.
But there's room for more.
Your goal doesn't have to be a bachelor's degree -- or any degree at all for that matter -- in order to take classes.
"College" today means a lot more than a four-year degree. It means upgrading skills to keep pace with the changes in the job market. It means taking classes in areas of your interest. It means high-tech training for jobs that require skilled labor, but not necessarily a four-year degree. It means expanding your horizons. And, yes, it does mean that four-year degree.
Almost everyone realizes that without some education beyond high school, it's difficult to find employment that will support a family. It's not true, however, that all "good" jobs require a bachelor's degree. KPC offers a variety of one- and two-year degree programs. These are not "second-class" degrees; they're just different from a traditional four-year bachelor's degree -- the kind of degree most people associate with college, says KPC director Ginger Steffy.
Despite its central location and considerable community involvement, many peninsula residents still are surprised to discover a branch of the University of Alaska Anchorage right in their own back yard. Other surprises, Steffy says, include that the college offers degree programs, that the courses taken at KPC can transfer to major universities, that training is available to upgrade job skills applicable to the peninsula marketplace, that the quality of instructors and courses is exceptional, and that the campus facilities, including the vocational shops, are as good as they are. Students also often are surprised at the friendliness of the environment and the individual attention they receive, says Steffy.
(A taste of KPC's community involvement: its public art gallery, its free Sunday Showcases, its professional development courses for teachers, and its relationship with a host of nonprofit groups such as Community Schools and the Challenger Learning Center. Plus, faculty members are an integral part of a variety of nonprofit groups and often are called upon to be speakers and presenters at public events.)
A college in a community is a wonderful asset. Thursday's open house at KPC is an opportunity to see how your life might be enriched by a college course or two. Don't think you're too old or too young or not smart enough -- KPC even offers a class designed to help people succeed.
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