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Wynegar: No plans to close E-Chowan campus

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College of The Albemarle President Robert Wynegar reassures students at the college's Edenton-Chowan campus Tuesday that COA has no plans to close the campus. He also asked students to suggest programs and amenities they want on the campus.

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By Miles Layton
Chowan Herald

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

EDENTON — College of The Albemarle’s president assured students on the community college’s Edenton-Chowan campus this week there are no plans to close the campus.

COA President Robert Wynegar also informed students that the campus’s heating ventilation and air-conditioning program will not be moving to COA’s main campus in Elizabeth City as originally planned. He also said the culinary arts program will be staying at Edenton-Chowan.  

“We're not going to close the campus. We want the campus to grow, not close,” Wynegar said during the meeting of COA administrators with students on the Edenton-Chowan campus Tuesday.

Wynegar said it was important for Edenton-Chowan students to know that COA is committed to having a campus in their community, particularly with rumors swirling to contrary.

“The more I hear that (the Edenton-Chowan campus is closing) on the streets, the more I think that students will say, 'why should I bother going to that campus if they going to close?'” he said. “I'm not going to close the campus. Period. I think you all know that because that's why you're here.”

Wynegar said he's been talking with local business and political leaders in recent weeks about the campus’s future.

“We met to talk about the future of the campus, how we're going to grow it and what we're going to do in the future — what kind of programs we can bring to this campus that will make sense and that students would want to take where there would be jobs for them afterwards,” he said.

Wynegar put a lot of emphasis on the last point, noting that “there's no point to doing training here if there are no jobs that come after that.”

“I'm trying to make sure these groups know where we stand, where the county stands and where the employers stand in terms of what we can do for this campus,” he said.

Wynegar said the point of talking to students on Tuesday was to find out what students want from COA for the Edenton-Chowan campus. He reiterated that the campus's HVAC and culinary arts programs will remain in Edenton.

“There was discussion about moving the HVAC program back to Elizabeth City — we're not,” he said. “We're leaving it here at least for the foreseeable future. We'll make some decisions on that down the road, but right now it is here.”

Wynegar also addressed past discussion among some COA trustee board members about the possibility of relocating Edenton-Chowan’s culinary arts program to COA’s campus in Dare where there’s a growing hospitality industry. Wynegar, who is open to a culinary arts program in Dare, made clear Tuesday it wouldn’t come at the expense of the existing program in Edenton. 

“Culinary is here, too, and it is not going to leave — this is its home,” he told students.

Veronica Downing, a senator in COA’s Student Government Association, asked Wynegar if it was possible for the COA Board of Trustees to have more representation from Chowan County. A majority of the trustee board's representatives currently are from Pasquotank County, which hosts COA’s main campus. Downing said having more representation from the counties hosting COA's satellite campuses would build more support for retaining or adding programs there.

Wynegar said community colleges from across the state have approached state lawmakers about changes to the number and makeup of their trustee boards. He noted that state law determines the COA Board of Trustees’ size and membership.

“In terms of changing that mix and getting more representation from one county instead of another, I'd have to go to the Legislature to make that happen,” he said.

Other students asked Wynegar and top administrators on hand for the meeting about a host of other topics — everything from purchasing textbooks and having food trucks on campus to whether students could complete class projects that might help the school's bottom line.

On the subject of adding new programs, administrators said the college has to balance the desire for programs like cosmetology or electrical repair with the funding available and enrollment projections.

“I know this is ancient history, but when we had the electrical program here last year, there were two students enrolled in it,” said Evonne Carter, COA’s vice president of learning. “We can't run a program with two students. That's just not feasible. We just can’t do it. And we had hard time finding teachers.”

Carter stressed that COA's goal is not only to provide the skills needed for graduates to get good jobs, but to keep COA alumni working in the region. Two ideas COA officials are considering are creation of non-credit continuing education programs and rotation of programs to different campuses.

“We cover seven counties and we're trying to be as fair as we possibly can, so one of the ideas that we are trying to work on is having mobile programs — taking a program and moving it after two or three years to another campus so that it cycles around; other programs could be here,” Carter said.

Students seemed supportive of Wynegar and other administrators’ comments, asking if more positive news about the campus could be shared as a way to attract more students.

Lynn Hurdle-Winslow, COA’s vice president of student services, reminded students why the community college is great place to get an education.

“This is a great place for students to get started because you know you've got a lot of support,”she said.

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