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Every weekday morning CAI brings you coverage of local issues, news, and stories that matter. Join us for Morning Edition from 6 a.m. to 9a.m., with Kathryn Eident.

Enrollment at Cape Cod Community College up Amidst Pandemic, School Prepared for Virtual Learning

Cape Cod Community College

Cape Cod Community College typically has about 3,000 students during the fall semester on its three campuses: The main site in West Barnstable, a satellite in Hyannis, and aviation hangars in Plymouth.

This year, enrollment applications are up, but 4C's President John Cox says he's worried that students are hesitating to take the final step—registering for classes.  

WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with him about this, and how the school has prepared to open for the semester September 8.  

Cox We've never really closed. We did this pivot where everything has been transitioned to virtual. There are a few that are hybrid, face-to-face. That happened back in March, and we were actually one of the first colleges in the nation to announce what our plans were for the fall. And, we are continuing on with virtual learning, but also integrating a little bit more on the hybrid face-to-face, again, keeping in mind the restrictions that we have in terms of the number of people that can be in any one room or lab.  

One piece that I remind people is that we've actually been in the realm of virtual learning for for quite a while with our online course offerings. So, this has really been the ability to ramp up, to engage more faculty that maybe haven't been as deeply involved in an virtual learning.

But I would say the takeaway, having been in this now for about two months where we've had hybrid, is that we have been successful, students are completing, they're actually doing very well in they're their completions. We haven't had any health issues.

Eident What kinds of challenges did you face in the summer session with all the new safety protocols?

Cox The initial challenge that we thought would be a bigger challenge than I think it turned out, was getting students, faculty and staff into the mindset that now we wear a mask when we're coming to campus. Actually, when you come on campus, you get a temperature check now. And, we also have the self-attestation questions that we are sort of driving home the point that people need to just assess how they are everyday when they get up.

We're changing the configurations of the classrooms and the lab. We're having separate entrances to certain facilities. We're altering the schedule so that we don't have overlapping classes. We're keeping classrooms separated. Where the technology side has been weak, we have pulled together a laptop loaner program that students can sign out the laptop for the term, the quick-term or the semester. We have also built out a hotspot in one of our parking lots on campus that students can drive to and log in to. And we do have an ability to loan out hotspots as well.

Eident How is the college fared budget-wise so far in this pandemic?

Cox We close the year successfully. We received some of the CARES funding, so we actually made it through last year. We had no layoffs. And, I might add for the first time in a decade, the enrollment at Cape Cod Community College increased. It was sort of a monumental year. And then you have a pandemic. 

Eident Do you expect more students to enroll at 4Cs this fall because so many four year schools are online only or are offering limited classes, but campus life itself is restricted?

Cox There's been a very high number of students who have applied to enroll. They have been accepted, but they haven't completed the registration process. So, there's this lingering, if you will. And, we're sort of tailoring that back to the notion of all these other uncertainties in the household between, you know, what's happening with the K-12 for those students and the household. Maybe another school was in the mix and also, to a certain extent, the notion of what's happening economically. So, there are more variables this year that have made it a little bit more complicated than in the past.

And, we've actually increased the number of people that we have working and enrollment management to talk them through some of their questions and help in making those decisions.

Eident Well, having to hire more people in the enrollment department. Sounds like a good thing. Would you say you're cautiously optimistic that you will see higher numbers of students enrolling as 4Cs in the fall?

Cox I am optimistic, but I am at this moment, I'm a little concerned that there are many people that have not made the decisions yet. That is the greatest struggle that we see, that there are a lot of people that may opt to sit out this year. And, we just keep driving home the point that, that's a mistake, because in life we don't get a do-over for time. We don't get this time back.

Eident Dr. John Cox, President of Cape Cod Community College, thanks for taking the time to talk about what's going on at 4Cs as students get ready for the fall semester.

Cox Thanks, Kathryn, take care.

Eident Thank you. You too

Kathryn Eident is an award-winning journalist and hosts WCAI's Morning Edition. She began producing stories for WCAI in 2008 as a Boston University graduate student reporting from the Statehouse. Since then, Kathryn’s work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times, Studio 360, Scientific American, and Cape and Plymouth Business Magazine.