The board of directors of the Corry Higher Education Council knows what it’s like to have to tighten your belt. The council has been forced to look at reducing its own expenses after state budgets included funding cuts for Hi-Ed centers.
And the council recognizes that the bad economy and layoffs have made it difficult for individuals and employers to afford continuing education.
Steve Bishop, executive director of the Hi-Ed Council, recommended the board to do something for residents who also have had to tighten their belts with the slowed economy.
As a result, the Hi-Ed Council has significantly reduced the cost of its computer and workforce training classes, while increasing their value to participants, Bishop said.
“The board quickly agreed it was the right thing to do,” Bishop said. “We all recognized that we needed to enhance this opportunity, and we needed to make classes cheaper and more accessible.”
The new costs are reflected in the Hi-Ed’s fall catalog, which was mailed to residents today.
The Hi-Ed Council reduced the costs of courses that it offers but is not able to cut the cost of courses offered through other providers, such as a college or university.
“We looked at each course individually and tried to make them as inexpensive as possible,” Bishop said. “The board agreed unanimously with recognizing we’re going to lose money on some of these classes.”
Here are some examples of the reduced costs of classes:
• 12-hour Introduction to Computers, Internet and E-mail — Price reduced 38 percent, dropping from $79 to $49. Class includes a $27 book, so students are essentially receiving 12 hours of instruction for $22.
• 6-hour Windows Necessities — The $39 price includes a $24 book, so students are essentially receiving six hours of instruction for $15.
• Microsoft Word and Excel — Hours of instruction increased from nine to 12, the $30 to $35 book is once again being included with the course (the book had previously been excluded from the class due to increasing cost), and the price has been cut by 34 percent, dropping the cost from $89 to $59. Students are essentially receiving 12 hours of instruction for about $25.
• QuickBooks — Price reduced by 30 percent, dropping from $169 to $119, and the cost includes the $46 book. Students are essentially receiving 12 hours of instruction for $73.
• 2D Computer-Aided Drafting — Price reduced by 24 percent, dropping from $229 to $175 for 24 hours of instruction.
The Hi-Ed has also expanded its computer offerings for the fall, with a return of morning classes in addition to the traditional evening classes.
“With the reduced prices, we’re hoping to attract working individuals into the daytime classes as an upgrade to their job skills,” Bishop said.
Although the Hi-Ed Council cannot lower the costs of courses offered through other providers, such as a college-credited or workforce course, it has implemented a way to offer financial assistance for those who want to take the courses but may need some financial help.
In addition, if even the new lower prices are too high for some, the Hi-Ed can reduce the cost further through the introduction of “partial scholarships” from the Kelly Thomas Adult Scholarship program and the Corry Manufacturing Adult Scholarship program. Individuals need only fill out the Hi-Ed’s partial scholarship form and show a financial need in order to receive funding of up to half the cost of a class.
“Even those classes where we can’t control the costs, we can make it affordable,” Bishop said.
The use of that scholarship money has also been extended for the first time to classes offered by outside providers. So partial scholarships will be available for up to half the cost of “Basic Electricity,” “Blueprint Reading,” and “Food Protection Certification” this fall.
“We’ve decided to do whatever we can do to remove the cost as a barrier to people improving their job skills,” Bishop said. “We’ve determined that even if we lose money on our classes, it’s worth the benefit of making them more affordable and accessible to local residents and businesses.”
The Hi-Ed is also working with two grant providers in the hope of offering machining and welding programs for free this year. Those classes typically cost $450 or more.
“We’re still working out the details, but our hope is to offer a 78-hour program this fall that includes applied math, schematics and diagrams and blueprint reading, with those participants then moving into either a 90-hour machining class or a 90-hour welding class in January at the high school, all for free,” said Bishop. “We know we have the funds to offer the academic program in the fall, we’re just waiting to see if we’re getting the funds for the machining and welding classes.”
In the meantime, Bishop said, the Hi-Ed is accepting applications for the welding and machining programs, with an application deadline of Friday, Sept. 3.
“The pre-machining and welding program is coming up soon with a Sept. 14 start date, so we’re taking registrations even while we’re waiting for confirmation on the funding,” he said. “If it turns out we don’t get the funding, we’ll let the registrants know immediately.”