Editorial: GCC’s Starter Academy unique way to build an appetite for learning

  • High school students work at the transportation table at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Greenfield Community College is again experimenting with ways to pull in potential students who are sitting on the sidelines of higher education, hoping to get them moving into a college career.

The pilot program, called Starter Academy, essentially offers an introductory two-for-the-price-of-one deal to prospective students, betting that will entice people into the college environment who might not otherwise sample what GCC has to offer.

From high school students to senior citizens, anyone can sign up for the new Starter Academy, which begins this semester.

The Starter Academy students first choose one of three, free introductory courses, in science, math or English. The three free classes are “English Composition I: Expository Writing,” “Introductory Algebra” or “Cosmic Life Becomes You: Scientific Literacy for Today.” Students signing up for one of these courses will be mixed in with paying GCC students who have also signed up for the class.

At the same time, students sign up for a second three-credit course the same semester, for up to $727, before student aid. Here the options widen to more closely match a new student’s interest, and the hope is new students find they not only can handle college education, but like it. GCC expects two starter courses will whet the appetite enough to keep students coming back for more.

“This is for high school students who want to spend a little more time in college and get college prep; this is for adult learners who had never done college before, for adult learners who had tried college elsewhere ... for students who want to get going again,” explained coordinator and academic adviser Alysha Putnam.

These tentative students will also get the special attention of counselors about what they would like to get out of the program and how it can advance their goals. Counselors will also offer information about financial assistance.

The calculus is that once they get a taste of the college offerings and atmosphere, they will continue. This, admittedly, is good for the college, whose enrollment has been shrinking in recent years. But more importantly, it can be good for Franklin County residents who could truly benefit professionally or personally from the teachers and courses that might unlock their potential and clear a path to a better life.

The college enjoys one of the best reputations in the state and offers a wide range of educational options, from vocationally practical programs like nursing, early childhood education and sustainability tech to liberal arts study in English and biology. The college also has a reputation for constantly seeking ways to provide the courses and programs that serve our community well.

This Starter Academy looks like another example of that forward thinking. We applaud the school for not resting on its laurels.