Creative thinking boosts LSCO despite Covid
Last updated 6/9/2020 at 11:05pm | View PDF
Making the best of a bad situation, educators have been busy since the onset of the coronavirus to think outside the box.
It's paying off at Lamar State College Orange, which on June 3 set a new school standard for summer enrollment with 1,019 students.
"It's a great day. I'm very excited," Dr. Tom Johnson, president of LSCO, said. "We made lemonade out of lemons this year."
The two-year college in downtown Orange is waiving tuition and fees for two 3-hour summer classes in 2021.
While summer school has already begun, the second summer semester does not begin until July and registration remains open.
The pandemic forced primary, secondary and higher education schools around the country to switch most of their classes to online.
At LSCO, only a few students in technical courses, like nursing and instrumentation, meeting on campus, in small groups that qualify under social distancing guidelines.
Johnson praised Dr. Wendy Elmore, LSCO provost, and Mary Wickland, vice president for finance and operations at both Lamar State Colleges in Orange and Port Arthur, for coming up with the plan to make the one-time offer to waive the tuition after each school received COVID Emergency grants of more than $1 million.
Both schools in turn returned more than $500,000 to students in the form of $1,000 emergency grants, money that didn't have to be repaid.
"The other remaining funds are institutionally based and we as an institution are so committed to helping our students that we are reinvesting it into their education," Elmore said.
"Many of the other institutions are using it to purchase equipment or PPE. We had to use some to help shift our paradigm of instruction [to online].
"But the lion's share of that $500,000, we're reinvesting it to our students so that they can have the opportunity to take these two courses for free."
Johnson, two full years into his job after coming from Tyler Junior College, is quite the cheerleader for Orange and two-year colleges.
"Seventy-six percent of our students are the first generation in their families to go to college. Many are like me," he said.
"I was the first generation in my family to go to college. I went first in the summer to Angelina College to see if I was ready for college. Because I did well in the summer, I stayed for the fall.
"If you start here, you can get on track for a trade, or you can get a two-year degree and transfer to a four-year college. It's win, win, win."
Elmore says the school also keeps an eye on its students' bottom lines.
"We're working hard to find monies to give to our students," she said, "so they can take more classes."
And there's beautiful downtown Orange, Johnson reminds.
"We truly believe if you come look at our school and take classes from our professors where the typical class size is 17, we're confident once you get here, you'll say this is where you need to go to college," Johnson said.
"We're going to take care of you. We want you to stay in Orange, Texas."