West Hills trustees hear of efforts to expand focus on student opportunities

From West Hills College
Dr. Frank Gornick
Dr. Frank Gornick

With the start of a new semester, educational leaders at West Hills College are renewing and expanding their focus on providing students with more opportunities to take classes, whether online or on campus, and on making it easier for students to navigate the college-going process.

Chancellor Frank Gornick shared with members of the West Hills Community College District Board of Trustees on Wednesday some highlights from his recent State of the District address delivered to college faculty and staff.

He said the college was embracing a variety of educational pathways such as career technical education, online degrees and concurrent enrollment.

“There are many individuals in our area who are underemployed or under-skilled,” he said. “We see a strong need to provide training for skills employers want.”

Gornick highlighted some of the district’s goals going forward:

  • WHC will help students overcome transportation issues by partnering with the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency to offer a new route to North District Center in Firebaugh from surrounding communities along with a second route from Huron to West Hills College Coalinga. Plans are in the works for a new transportation option from Avenal to West Hills College Coalinga, which should start soon.
  • There will be a continued focus on online educational resources and reducing the costs of textbooks for students.
  • Courses designed for adult learners as well as concurrent enrollment for area high school students will be supported.
  • The district will continue to grow its online programs, including an emphasis on online degrees.
  • There is a new focus on adult learners and making a return to college less complicated and restrictive than it is perceived to be.
  • Academic Calendar Review: “Right now we offer an 18-week semester, which can be a gauntlet we ask students to run.” Gornick said. The college will be looking at options such as more 9-week courses and additional accelerated programs.

“This year, an emphasis will be placed on putting more and better information in the hands of our current and prospective students,” the chancellor said. “Our unique year-round registration process that we developed last year will continue to be fine-tuned. We’ll revise and simplify forms and instructions for web based application and enrollment options. And we want to streamline orientation to emphasize what new students need to know right now.

“We take a lot of things for granted with respect to our student population,” he said. “Sometimes our posted instructions to students assume they understand our process better than they in fact do. To that end, we are issuing an RFP for a whole new website to upgrade our web page. This would include an upgrade to make a new website that is totally mobile so students can access all the information they need, online, from wherever they are.”

Gornick also highlighted the importance of the associate degree for transfer program, a unique program that provides California community college students with guaranteed admission to a California State University. This past year the number of these degrees awarded district-wide has doubled, mirroring a state-wide increase.

“The popularity of the associate degree for transfer is creating the pathway the master plan always wanted to create,” he said. “It’s a real plus for us and our students.”

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