Back to school time is right around the corner for children, teens and college students, but what about the rest of us?
Through its Community Education program the Community College of Allegheny County offers between 3,000 and 4,000 classes in which anyone can enroll.
The program offers classes in fitness, computer software, writing, cooking, accounting and plenty more. Many classes cost around $99 for a six week course; 30-week or longer courses cost a few hundred dollars.
Community Education classes are part of CCAC’s Workforce Development program, which also runs remedial classes through the Hill House to help get under-educated individuals back into the workforce.
Larry Furlong, the executive director of community education at CCAC, said between 20,000 and 25,000 students enroll in a community education class each year.
“We cover all generations,” he said, adding that the classes are a popular option for those who want to expand their professional skills repertoire and for those who are looking for personal enrichment.
The college offers “Mommy and Me” classes for mothers and children all the way up to classes and workshops for senior citizens.
Fitness classes are the most popular, with 20 percent of students taking one. The next most popular category is technical classes, including courses in blueprint drawing, welding and small engine repair.
Furlong said the Community Education program prices its courses in line with CCAC’s mission to provide affordable education.
“We try to be very friendly to the customer,” he said.
In addition to full courses, the program offers one-day workshops on a variety of topics including computers and basic software.
Since the classes aren’t for college credit, students aren’t graded. Some classes offer a pre- and post-class assessment to test learning, and CCAC can give students a non-credit certificate of completion to show they’ve taken the class.
Most teachers are experts or professionals in their fields, create their own classes and are passionate about sharing their knowledge, Furlong said. And because students opt to take the classes and want to learn, it creates a good learning environment.
20 percent of CCAC students are repeat customers, making up the vast majority of those enrolled in the Community Education program. A relatively small portion of participants in the program often take one class, usually a professional development class, and do not return.
That’s okay, though, Furlong said, because those students will hopefully tell others about the classes, or will recommend the school to their children.
“Give us a try,” he said. “I’ve taken a few classes myself and the thing I love the most is watching people come together.”