One week before the start of the fall semester, Kenai Peninsula College is holding an open house to reintroduce the community to the university as it moves beyond the pandemic.
KPC Director Cheryl Siemers and Recruitment and Dual Enrollment Coordinator Emily Knight said the event is about showing off what the university has to offer people on the Kenai Peninsula. After years of reduced attendance and mitigation measures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, KPC is ready to welcome the community back onto the Kenai River Campus.
The open house targets students hoping to enroll at KPC, and would normally be held in the spring. “The reason we moved it to the fall was to promote that the campus is open,” Knight said.
The event will be “community minded,” Siemers said, with activities for children, there will be food trucks offering free food to the first 300 attendees, faculty from various departments will be there to talk about their programs and tours will be offered of buildings and labs.
Prospective students do not just include those fresh out of high school, according to Siemers. KPC has a large community of non-traditional students, even with programs like JumpStart and the middle college that target local high schoolers. Knight said high school-aged students likely don’t even make up a majority of the population.
Siemers said that she is directly looking to reach out to anyone who is considering a return to college or a fresh start. “I want them to know that the college is a community resource,” she said. According to Siemers, events like the open house are an opportunity to learn “What’s available to you? Where do you start the conversation?”
The availability of degrees has been broadened during the pandemic, especially with the increasing number of online classes offered, Siemers said.
“UAA as a whole is making pathways into the degrees,” she said. “The options are quite varied … we could help you start something here and finish up with another institution.” Through the statewide UA system, people can complete more degrees without relocating.
Masks are not required on campus or in classrooms, though official guidance from the University of Alaska is that they are recommended. Masks will remain on offer at each entrance, hand sanitizer will still be available for those who desire it, but the choice is in the hands of each student and each faculty member.
The fall semester, kicking off Aug. 29, is bringing “a lot of positive energy on campus.”
“We’re seeing lots of students coming in the door, asking questions, signing up for classes and getting information,” Siemers said. “We’re ready and willing to meet them.”
Siemers said the campus is slowly becoming more active, with students appearing in the halls and congregating in study areas. Events are going to be held face-to-face on campus, both for students and for the wider community through the return of the KPC Showcase series. Hours at the college are being shifted later to allow students greater access to the space.
KPC is proud of its small size allowing it to be a “one stop shop,” Siemers said. “You can talk to someone about financial aid, you can turn around and in the same afternoon reach someone in advising or talk to someone about student services, about registration.”
This year, KPC is offering classes in different modalities. There will be classes in person, classes online and classes with a blended style, allowing students to choose whether they want to attend in person or from home.
The distribution of classes is roughly estimated to include a slight majority of online courses, though Siemers noted that that statistic is “simplistic.” The course breakdown is designed to afford students the opportunity to choose the style they prefer.
“One example is writing courses. A student asked what their options were and going down the line; they have a face-to-face option, they have a blended option and they have an online option. They can pick which one best suits them,” Siemers said.
Attendance is up this year, one of the few campuses that are up in enrollment across the larger University of Alaska system, Siemers said.
Siemers said this is “super encouraging for us, because we want to see students come back, come in the door, find the course or pathways they need.”
Some of the major programs that the university is hoping to spread the word about during the open house and beyond include the JumpStart program and the recently established middle college. Both of these programs allow high school students to take college courses during their junior and senior years at significantly reduced tuition rates, obtaining college credits while completing their high school diploma.
The JumpStart program has been offered for decades, requiring students to pay around one third of tuition, with the rest covered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
The middle college, entering its third year after being launched in the middle of the COVID pandemic, allows for a very similar setup, with college courses being offered to high schoolers to complete both high school and college credits.
It is only offered to juniors and seniors at brick and mortar schools, who can prove they are college ready through placement testing and maintain a grade-point average of 2.5. Students enrolled in the middle college have their tuition, books and lab fees entirely covered by the school district.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at email@example.com.