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NCCC adapts to meet changing student needs

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Lynn Lytle, adjunct instructor and writing coach, works with student Freddy Arzuaga in the community college's Academic Center for Excellence (ACE).


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Niagara County Community College has always sought creative ways to meet the needs of students. Building a 90,000 square foot culinary institute in Niagara Falls 10 years ago may be the most obvious example of the college’s flexibility and out-of-the-box thinking, but it’s just one of many.

Having an adaptable approach supports the student body, which has become an increasingly diverse group of individuals who are united in their desire for a transformative educational experience, and NCCC is here to help.

Hands-on learning

With a hands-on approach in the labs housed within the Culinary Institute to its offsite internships, NCCC seeks to offer students practical skills and as much exposure to real life work environments as possible.

“Practical learning is so important,” says Julia Pitman, vice president of student services. “For the upcoming fall of 2022 semester, NCCC has over 60 opportunities on the schedule with options like clinical labs, in-the-field experiences, internships and industry opportunities.”

Pathway to a 4-year degree

Some students earn their two-year degree and go on to finish their education at a college or university. The U.S. Department of Education reports 26% of NCCC graduates take this path, with most attendees transferring to local schools.

“We have articulation agreements with many four-year institutions. This broadens opportunities for our students,” Pitman says. “It's a role of a community college to ensure their students move forward, so we are always developing those relationships with other schools.”

Supporting students from varied backgrounds

Supporting students at various stages of life requires well-coordinated and impactful resources. NCCC’s Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) tutoring program offers academic reinforcement from early in the morning until midnight on some evenings. Two 30-minute sessions – in person or online – are available to each student every school day through an online scheduler, ensuring no student goes without the help they need.

Despite challenging workloads and other educational expectations, Freddy Arzuaga, a 45-year-old student and former mechanic in his second semester at NCCC, says it’s this kind of support that has helped him earn a 3.75 GPA and induction into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

“Every student has a whole team,” Arzuaga reflects. “I use the tutoring option all the time.”

Additional support is available through the school’s child development center. For students with children, having access to supervised programming right on campus saves time and eases the complex daily responsibilities a parent in school faces. Grants can help cover the cost of childcare, and student financial aid can also be applied to the expense.

Flexibility to meet students where they are

Veteran Chris Hurley returned to college at 40 after experiencing job loss just prior to the pandemic. Through blended live classes that allow him to attend courses in person or online, as well as the Hy-Flex program – which doesn’t require him to be available during class time and allows him to work on his own schedule – the single parent has been able to make it work, even when his daughter is home sick from school.

“She missed six days in a row,” he says. “Without these options I’d have missed all my classes and coursework for a week.”

Faculty attention and smaller class sizes

The average class size at NCCC is 17, which is how students like Hurley and Arzuaga thrive. Navigating the everyday stressors and complications of non-school life means both students rely on frequent communication with professors. The understanding a professor must have, as well as the openness to ongoing success-oriented communication, is something NCCC is committed to.

Whether a student is returning to school or entering college for the first time, the resources available at Niagara County Community College make it an optimal fit for people from an array of backgrounds.

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