RICHMOND —Iraq war veteran and former Specialist Jameson Hughes faced a conundrum last year.
A class he needed to take as an ROTC cadet was offered only once in the spring semester, at the same time as his university ROTC class. So, the Chesterfield County resident signed up for an online version of the class being offered by John Tyler Community College.
“I was wary at first,” said Hughes. “But it was a good situation. The teacher was always available for questions and always offered great feedback. Accessing the class website was simple. The testing proctors on campus were very professional. It couldn’t have gone any smoother. The academic credit has already transferred. I can’t ask for more than that. ”
Hughes was not alone in his experience, as either a student with military status or one enrolled in an online class. Virginia’s Community Colleges set enrollment records last year in both categories. The VCCS served 41,470 students with a military status during the 2012-2013 academic year. At the same time, more than 44,838 people took advantage of the colleges’ online classes exclusively.
“Our colleges are proud of both of those numbers and rightfully so,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “We strive to help our returning veterans translate their military experience into skills that will serve them in the private sector, and offer them the chance to obtain additional skills. And as more of our life’s business occurs on a screen our colleges are working hard to keep their offerings relevant and flexible to the people we serve.”
The number of students with military status includes active duty service members, reservists, retirees, veterans, dependents and spouses. The 41,470 statewide figure represents an increase of 0.6 percent from the previous year. Patrick Henry Community College, in Martinsville, recorded the largest percentage increase at 17.6 percent. Northern Virginia Community College (333) and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, in Richmond, (112) had the largest numerical increases.
The high number of military status students Virginia’s Community Colleges are serving does not surprise Hughes.
“Most of the people who deployed with me to Iraq have taken or are taking community college classes. Most of them enlisted for the G.I. Bill benefits. Four-year universities can be daunting to them. Community colleges offer them the chance to get their footing as students. I would have no trepidation at all at taking another community college class.”
The number of students enrolled exclusively in online classes increased by 1,018 –2.3 percent – to 44,838. Piedmont Virginia Community College, in Charlottesville, had the largest percentage increase at 23.2 percent. Northern Virginia and J. Sargeant Reynolds community colleges had the biggest numerical increases.
About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Created more than 40 years ago, the VCCS is comprised of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the commonwealth. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than 405,000 students a year. For more information, please visit myfuture.vccs.edu.