Reflections of a decade at San Jacinto College

 

For decades, San Jacinto College has embraced its mission to provide higher education opportunities to student populations, incumbent workers, and community members seeking personal and professional development. While the programs and approaches may have evolved over the years, the College’s commitment to excellence has never wavered.

 

There’s no doubt that the past decade, under the leadership of College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, has delivered a period of accelerated growth in nearly every facet of the College, from enrollment and degree completions to facility expansions and industry recognition.

 

The College is poised to capitalize on this momentum as 2020 approaches and brings with it the opening of a new campus and several new facilities, the expansion of industry partnerships, and exciting enhancements to programs and pathways offered. However, before we turn our focus to what the future holds for San Jacinto College, we’ll reflect on the last 10 years and commemorate the past decade of successes that have helped establish the College as a leading institution in higher education.

 

A Look Back

 

From day one, the College’s mission has been centered around student success, and that dedication has become clearer than ever in the past 10 years as 53,908 degrees and certificates have been awarded to students and incumbent workers achieving their goals and receiving their higher education credentials.

 

A 19 percent growth in enrollment during the decade has led to a current annual credit and non-credit student population of around 45,000, many of whom take advantage of the abundant resources the College offers in its effort to continually enhance the student experience and improve educational accessibility.

 

“Here at San Jac, it’s really clear that we’re making outcomes a big priority,” says Erica Davis Rouse, San Jacinto College Board of Trustees Assistant Secretary. “Years ago, our emphasis changed from enrollment to really helping our students matriculate. And not just get through, but how can we help them get through in a way that maximizes their time here.”

 

To help combat the skyrocketing costs of textbooks, San Jac implemented Open Books, an open educational resource program, allowing students to access free and low-cost textbooks, course materials, and supplemental learning aides like flashcards online. Since its inception, the program has saved San Jac students more than $3.1 million in textbook costs, and more than 60 percent of currently enrolled students are taking at least one Open Books course.

 

Another advancement in the student-first approach was the College’s recent transition to a new simplified tuition model in 2019, eliminating registration fees and adopting a standard per-credit-hour rate that allows for much easier up-front budgeting and cost transparency to help students plan their expenses without unexpected financial obstacles.

 

The simplified model also highlights the value students are getting by starting their college courses at San Jac, one of the top 10 community colleges in the nation, right here in their local community.

 

“Students can get the education they need for their first two years much, much cheaper, and better in a lot of ways because the classes are so much smaller than a university,” says San Jacinto College Board Chair Marie Flickinger. “They can get that big transitional push from high school to college and they’ll be much better off for it.”

 

The College has implemented many additional support programs and initiatives during the last 10 years, like campus food pantries with a free voucher system to help alleviate students’ food insecurities, a winter coat closet, assistance with cost-prohibitive immunizations, and more. These resources help students overcome some of the obstacles associated with pursuing a degree, and allow them to focus instead on classroom learning and coursework.

 

“Come prepared to be challenged, but come prepared to receive all the help you need to succeed, because we’re going to do both,” says Board Member Dan Mims. “We’re going to challenge you and push you, and we’re going to help you get there.”

 

Programs aren’t the only thing expanding at San Jac. Sixteen new facilities have been built or are under construction since 2009, providing state-of-the-art classrooms, labs, and workspaces for students to receive top-quality instruction from San Jac faculty using the latest tools and technology available.

 

The College’s new Maritime Technology & Training Center opened in 2016 and has been recognized with the prestigious Bellwether Award, honoring innovations in workforce development. The Maritime Campus and its programs help the College remain a leader in workforce training, and have contributed to the more than 13,000 trade certifications awarded in the past decade.

 

“We continue to change and innovate, and San Jacinto College has gone through a transformation,” says Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer. “Our classrooms look different. Our campuses look different. And the manner in which we deliver some courses looks different. Change is inevitable, and San Jacinto College has been at the forefront of keeping up with the ever-changing trends in higher education.”

 

Looking Ahead

 

The past 10 years have been a period of transformational growth for the College, but there’s no slowing down when it comes to the many exciting projects on the horizon.

 

A recent groundbreaking for The EDGE Center at the Houston Spaceport set the stage for San Jacinto College’s presence and involvement as the premiere training facility at the spaceport, with plans to develop and implement aerospace programs in mechatronics, composites, electrical, and aerospace structures.

 

The College’s new LyondellBasell Center for Petrochemical, Energy, & Technology held its grand opening this fall, signaling the first of a new wave of facilities coming online in the next six months, including the North Campus Cosmetology and Culinary Center, South Campus Cosmetology Center, South Campus Engineering & Technology Center, and a new Welcome Center for the Central Campus, all opening in Spring 2020.

 

Not only will the College be improving its existing campuses, but a new, fifth campus is underway as we speak. The new Generation Park Campus will open in fall 2020 in Houston’s northeast corner, just inside Beltway 8. The exciting new campus will host an initial 3,500 students and focus on general education transfer programs for those looking to jumpstart their college career at San Jac before transferring to a four-year university. Eventually, the campus will expand along with the programming offered.

 

Another program expansion on the horizon is a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, expected to begin being offered in the fall of 2020. The exciting new program is designed for registered nurses with an associate degree currently working in the field to be able to complete coursework to achieve their BSN. According to San Jac’s hospital partners, more than 1,200 nurses in the local area need this program.

 

“We’re excited about the opportunity to provide a clear path for these nursing students to continue their education,” says Dr. Hellyer. “That’s what it’s all about.”

 

If the past decade is any indication, San Jacinto College will be evolving, innovating, and enhancing the student experience like never before as the College transitions into a new decade of transformative education. From health care and the aerospace industry to workforce training and developing the next generation of talent, the College will be at the forefront of educational excellence with a steadfast focus on student success.

 

“We’ll continue to provide our students the best education in an equitable, diverse environment,” says Rouse, “where we value everyone that steps foot onto one of our many campuses as we help them pursue their life goals. Not only that, but to do so in a way that exposes them to new things so maybe they’re increasing their life goals, maybe they’re changing their life dream, maybe their dream gets bigger because they were here at San Jac.”