The topic of a community college in Minden was discussed at the Minden Lions Club meeting on Thursday. Dr. Earl Meador, Director of Northwest Technical College, presented an update on transitioning the technical college into a community college and future endeavors. One of the issues with the system now is credits earned at the technical college cannot be transferred to a four-year institution. Meador said, “There are some funding mechanisms, scholarships, and other things our students are not eligible for, but most importantly it’s our accreditation model. Our credits do not automatically transfer to the other colleges or to the four year schools.”
He made it clear that the programs offered at the technical college would not change and that his goal was only to open a pathway for the students. This would allow them the option of obtaining a four year degree by transferring the credits they earned while in attendance there. He stressed, “Our technical mission will not change. We have no intention of adding new programs or changing what we are doing.” Meador ended by saying, “The only way to fully accomplish this is legislative action,” before turning the discussion over.
State Representative Wayne McMahen and Senator Ryan Gatti closed out the program with a discussion regarding that legislative action to begin this spring in order to begin this transition. McMahen began by saying how important education was to him personally and what doors this legislation will open by changing the classification system. He said, “The accreditation will take a couple to three years to get it changed. We are not going to change the school. The school is not going to be anything, but a two-year school. We are going to do the same exact thing we have been doing. Changing the accreditation will give us the opportunity, like Earl was telling you, for the students not to be kept with a two-year degree and not able to move their hours to a four year school if they want to continue their education.” McMahen has been in contact with others around north Louisiana regarding this legislation and does not anticipate any resistance to this bill.
State Senator Ryan Gatti has previously stated his concern for the district if this did not take place soon. “Our biggest problem in my rural areas and my poor district is, folks are moving out. When we ask those 20-40 year olds who are upwardly mobile, ‘Why’d you leave?’ They say, ‘For opportunities that I couldn’t get back home.’” He is most excited about how this could benefit the community as a whole. Gatti said, “You will be able to tell kids, K-12, you can stay here, you can get educated here, and you can work here. So, the K-12 system does an excellent job taking people from poverty to prosperity and then, our local community college will be able to bump them up to where they are making enough money that they can contribute to the economy.”
Another modification this legislation will present is a change in tuition cost. Northwest Louisiana Technical College is currently operating at about 30% below what the other technical colleges charge.