I used to underestimate our Technology Centers
In Tennessee, A Possible Model For Higher Education
Carol Puryear is the director (and den mother, you might say) of the Murfreesboro Center, not far from Nashville. She and the other staff do a lot of hand-holding to make sure students get to their goal — a certificate and a job. Many community college programs let students pick and choose classes, but once they sign up at a Technology Center their class schedule is decided for them.
"They decide on the program and they decide if they want to be full time or part time and that's pretty much it," Puryear said.
Students don't have to worry that their schedule might change from semester to semester. For the 16 months she's enrolled, student Heidi Khanna knows exactly when she has to show up for her drafting courses: 7:45 to 2:30 Monday through Friday.
Attendance is taken and makes up about a third of your grade. It's a lot more like high school than the typical on-again-off-again schedule of many college students.
Khanna is working on a computer-aided design program. Yes, architecture is in a slump, but she's also getting the skills to move into mechanical drawing. The Technology Centers work closely with advisers from local businesses to keep their programs in sync with economic reality. That's one reason why around 8 in 10 students finish and get a job in their field — amazing statistics for any higher-ed institution. But it's still scary leaving the nest.
"I'm scared to death," Khanna says laughing. "I don't know, scared of change, you know, just getting back out into the workforce."
Khanna already has a degree — but her associate of arts in liberal studies wasn't getting her the work she wanted, so she's starting over at age 39. Other students plan to use their certificates to get a job to pay for more schooling.