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MTCC Fall 2021: Learning, Growing and Reinventing

The buzzword for the fall semester at McDowell Technical Community College is “reinvent,” a process of changing to fit the demands of a new or evolving environment. “Reinvention” is an essential part of learning and growing, a key element in McDowell Tech’s mission and vision for the upcoming demi-decade.

MTCC Fall 2021: Learning, Growing and Reinventing

“This is who we are as a college,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President. “If we are to survive as an educational institution and remain a viable solution to individual and workforce education needs, we have no choice but to grow, reinvent and reimagine how we do business—and we will. We must expand our reach to underserved populations—and we are doing so. Strong partnerships are key to expanding our footprint and student success!”


  • This fall, for example, McDowell Tech is offering a new Associate Degree in Teacher Preparation to not only help students prepare more efficiently for careers in education, but to fill increasing shortages in the public education workforce pipeline in Western North Carolina and beyond. Changing to meet student and workforce needs—learning, growing and reinventing.


  • Similarly, while other colleges continue to offer only 16-week semesters for traditional college students, MTCC recognizes that not all community college students are “traditional” and their needs are as varied as their work and family schedules, and, for dually-enrolled students, their high school schedules. As a result, McDowell Tech has expanded their offering of 14 and 8 week classes this fall to meet student demand for non-traditional class lengths. While 16-week classes started this week, incoming students still have time to apply and register for shorter term classes. Listening to students’ and families’ scheduling concerns. 14-week classes begin on August 30, and the 8-week term begins on October 14—learning, growing and reinventing


  • Many students desire career-focused, short-term programs aimed at preparing students for new jobs, new careers or certifications in their areas of interest. Short-term classes lead directly to a career include Phlebotomy, Healthcare Billing and Coding, Paramedic/EMT and Nurse Aide in the Health Sciences to Basic Law Enforcement, Trail Development and Sustainability, Cosmetology and Esthetics. —learning, growing and reinventing according to student needs and interests.


  • A second Early College program has found its home on the McDowell Tech campus this fall. McDowell Academy for Innovation (MAI) joins the McDowell Early College (MEC) in offering rising 9th graders a chance to participate in a unique high school experience on the MTCC campus, blending high school and two-year college education in one program—culminating in both a high school diploma and two-year college degree over a four-to-five year period. MAI students spoke and we listened—college classes are best experienced on a college campus. Listening, learning, growing and reinventing.


  • Change begets change at times, and so it is with the addition of a second Early College on the MTCC campus. The addition of several dozen new high school students has necessitated a change in the route for parents picking up students in the “car rider” line. The new route wraps around by the railroad tracks, avoiding a log-jam on Hwy. 226 coming into campus.


  • A new website has been commissioned this fall to enhance the student experience as part of the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). While the planning and development process for the new website may take several months to complete, the college listened and reinvention is underway.


  • While about 70% of MTCC students in recent years have qualified for federal financial aid through the PELL Grant Program, MTCC staff also know that many other students and their families regularly face financial challenges that make affording a college education almost impossible without the benefit of such aid. Some of those same folks have also faced even greater work and personal challenges during the pandemic of the last 18 months, making college even further from the reach of those who aren’t Pell Eligible.


  • Recognizing these needs, McDowell Tech established the Learn and Grow Scholarship Program for students enrolling in McDowell Tech classes during the 2021-2022 school year, both in curriculum programs, as well as many of the shorter-term Career and Technical Education programs. Thanks to federal and state dollars, local grants and scholarships and other funding sources, the Learn and Grow Scholarship will fully fund tuition and fees for almost all new and returning students this fall (*application required). Recognizing needs, meeting needs—learning and reinventing how we do business.


  • The MTCC Virtual bookstore which opened this fall is another example of how MTCC has adapted to concerns expressed by students for more affordable and accessible options for textbook purchases. While students can still purchase supplies and other items through the college’s brick-and-mortar bookstore, all regular textbook purchases may now be completed online, 24-hours per day, by visiting the link found at . Listening, learning and reinventing.


  • As the pandemic has morphed over time, the college has also listened to its public health partners, and as of the start of classes this week, masks will be required in all classrooms and common areas throughout campus due to growing concerns for the safety of students, faculty and staff as COVID-19 infection rates increase throughout the area. Adapting to a changing environment.


  • Right now, fall enrollment appears to be at or above pre-pandemic levels at McDowell Tech, and possibly as much as 10% higher than fall 2020 enrollment. While folks are responding well to the college’s offer of Learn and Grow Scholarships to help equalize access to quality, affordable education, numbers like this strain an already serious classroom space deficit on campus. Look for college administrators, public school partners and government leaders to begin having critical conversations about how to reimagine MTCC to grow enrollment. Learning and growing.


“We are looking forward to a great fall at McDowell Tech,” said Dr. Merritt. “It is an exciting year to be at Tech as we search for ways to reimagine ourselves in a changing economy –as we aim to learn and grow to better serve our students, our community, and our institution.”


Upcoming dates to remember: Drop/Add Deadline- August 18th; Tuition Refund Deadline- August 25th; Labor Day- September 6th; Fall Break- October 4th and 5th; Fall Festival- October 14th.



For more information on the Learn and Grow Scholarship Program, visit .

Ryan Garrison, Interim President; Don Ramsey, Robert Ayers, Judge Corey MacKinnon, Trustees; Gary Stroud, Trustee Board Chair; Judge Ellen Shelley

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