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JCSU looks to expand Metropolitan College

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Nearly a year has passed since Johnson C. Smith University launched its Metropolitan College adult education program. Since then, about 70 students have enrolled.

University officials say they have far bigger ambitions for the college, however.

Qcitymetro recently sat with Zenobia Edwards, dean of the Metropolitan College, and Cathy Hurd, the associate dean, to talk about the school’s first 10 months, as well as plans for its future.

A Q&A based on that interview is below. Answers were edited for brevity and clarity.

***
Q. Why launch an adult education program at Johnson C. Smith?
There are a couple of reasons: Research indicates that the age of adult learners is trending upward. So you have more people going back to school, either for a career change or, in this economy, they’re looking for something to do to give currency to the educational experiences they already have. Typically for adults, their schedules don’t allow them to do what works for the traditional student. They need evening classes, and they want to see a clear path from start to finish. This also is a way for us to diversify our student body regarding age and ethnicity. It’s an answer to what’s going on in society.

Q. How does Metropolitan College differ from other local adult-education programs?
There are a lot of great programs out there. What we’re trying to do at Johnson C. Smith is carve out our place in the market. We’ve tried to fashion our program based on best practices with regard to class format and instruction. We have some classes we’re doing online and some that we’re doing completely in class. One of the most popular is the hybrid model – a combination of online and in class. We offer weekend classes as well.

Q. You mentioned diversify. How diverse were your first-year students?
We had mostly African American females, average age of about 35. They come from different walks of life. Some of them have degrees but want to change careers. Some of them had never been to college. Some of them went to Smith years ago or transferred from online universities. We are continuing to work on our ethnic diversity as well.

Q. How much is tuition?
Metropolitan College has reduced tuition -- $295 per credit hour. But our evening students don’t get all the amenities that traditional students have rolled into their tuition. They are just coming for the classes.

Q. How does that compare with what traditional students pay?
Our traditional tuition is about $365 per credit hour.

Q. Can younger students enroll in Metropolitan College?
We market for students 25 and older, but nothing would stop a student who is traditional college age from enrolling in Metropolitan College. They would have to take the majority of their classes in the evening. That’s the key. And keep in mind that Metropolitan College is still Johnson C. Smith University. When they graduate, their degrees would still say Johnson C. Smith University, because they have to meet all the requirements of the day program.

Q. Do you worry that evening classes might cannibalize JCSU’s four-year programs?
Metropolitan College targets students 25 and older. That’s what you will see in our marketing material. The traditional program will always be there. There will always be the group of students who are graduating high school and want the four-year college experience.

Q. What degrees are offered through Metropolitan College?
When we started in January 2010 we started with criminology and social work. We have since added business administration. There have been a lot of requests for that. So now students can get degrees in business administration with concentrations in either management or accounting. That being said, you can start working on any degree at Smith through evening classes.

Q. In addition to degree programs, you also offer certificate programs.
We’ll be offering our first certificate program in a couple of months. It will be in bioinformatics.

Q. I’ve got to ask. What is bioinformatics?
It’s kind of new. Informatics in general is kind of new. It’s just what the name implies – information. There is so much information out there. With bioinformatics, its information that concerns genes and healthcare and the genome project that was funded by the federal government. All of that information has to be cataloged and stored. So bioinformatics becomes specific information as it relates to biology and health-related physiology.

Q. So who would want a certificate in bioinformatics?
We hope to target a couple of audiences. One is teachers, because it is a new trend and it merges the science of biology with computers. So we hope to target teachers so they can at least introduce that into their classrooms. It also may work for researchers, someone who has a degree in chemistry but wants to get more information about bioinformatics. Even computer firms that have an interest in contracting with a hospital or other entity. It feeds from two fields – computer science and all that that involves as well as biology and health care.

Q. What other certificate programs are you considering?
We’ve been in partnership with the Urban Business Network and have done some work with minority business owners here in Charlotte, so we’ve heard from them about some of the areas they want more information in – running a business, starting a business. So we are going to design a series of business certificates to meet the needs of that particular audience.

Q. How many business certificates will you offer?
We may start with two or three and build from there. We’re going to start with e-commerce, learning how to take advantage of the vast Internet to guide your business.

Q. When might those start?
We’re shooting for the spring.

Q. Long-term, where do you think Metropolitan College is going? Do you have specific goals in terms of enrollment?
We want to be self-sustaining in three years, meaning we can carry our salaries and all of our operational costs from tuition the students bring in. In three years we’d like to have at a minimum 300 students. But if it goes to 3,000 I’d be very happy. I think anything is possible.

For more information about Metropolitan College, visit www.metropolitancollege.jcsu.edu or call 704-378-1253.



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October 24, 2014
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