Chosen from more than forty applicants, Dr. Christal Albrecht assumed the presidency of Alvin Community College (ACC) in May of this year. She succeeded Dr. A. Rodney Allbright who had served 38 years as president. Albrecht takes leadership at a time Community Colleges and High School Career and Technical programs are receiving increased emphasis among young people and those looking to change careers. Skyrocketing costs associated with earning a college degree, a more generally recognized notion that not all students are suited for higher education, and increasing confirmation that skilled trades are the hardest jobs to fill are all driving the renewed focus on what was previously known as vocational training.
One of Albrecht’s aims upon assuming the presidency is working to build relationships with local business and industry and to increase the college’s visibility among the communities it serves. Albrecht says she is “shocked by the number of people who don’t know there is a community college here. For me I am on an awareness building campaign, just trying to get the word out that we are here and this college has so much to offer the community and has played and can continue to have a big impact on economic development for this whole region.” In that regard she was invited to make a presentation to Manvel City Council this month. Manvel Mayor Delores Martin introduced Dr. Albrecht as “one of the finest women I have ever met and she is going to do wonderful things with the college. I am blown away by all the opportunities that Alvin College affords.”
Albrecht promotes the college explaining “we pride ourselves on meeting the needs of our community by offering a wide variety of programs, courses, and services to help you build your future, achieve your dreams, and contribute to the continued prosperity of our community.” In fact, the college offers thirteen Associate in Arts, seven Associate of Science, and twenty-two Associate in Applied Science degree programs. It provides over thirty certificate programs and the college’s workforce training division operates over thirty programs for area businesses and industry. Albrecht believes Community Colleges are a “pathway to success” and describes Alvin College as “an investment in the community, we are here for business and industry to provide a trained workforce, and we provide a great return on investment for the communities we serve.”
The college graduated 1100 students in May. The average age of an ACC student is 23 and range in age from 13 to 82. 58% of students are women. According to a college report 83% of enrolled students plan to earn an Associate’s Degree or transfer to a local university to complete bachelor’s degree program. Class sizes are small relative to the state average at a level of about 17 students per each faculty member and the school enjoys excellent pass rates on state license exams.
Albrecht touts the college as “top ranked” as the institution was named three years successively as being among America’s top 10% of community colleges by the Aspen Institute. She describes that “as quite an honor when you consider there are 1,132 community colleges in the US and that ACC was named in that top group.” The recognition is based on student success in retention and completion, performance and improvement over time, and performance of underrepresented minorities and institutions in low-income service areas.
In addition to academic degree programs, which students typically use as a step to higher education, the college offers many technical degree programs that allow students to complete a year or two of study and be able to enter the workforce with a good paying and stable job. Technical degree programs include law enforcement, allied health and nursing, business and technology, and process technology, which Albrecht boasts as very popular for people who want to work in area chemical and refinery plants.
Workforce development programs offer still quicker paths to enter the workforce. People can in just a few months get training in areas like commercial truck driving, massage therapy, and even helicopter flight training. Other workforce development programs include fields such as machinist, computer technician, dental assistant, welding, and a variety of courses in health care.
More than 100 classes are offered online and five academic degrees can be earned entirely online so that students would not have to attend classes on a regular schedule. Various continuing education and workforce development courses can be completed online as well such as real estate and medical transcription.
Dual credit programs are offered to students at area high schools that allow students to enroll in college courses and earn credit that can be applied to their college degrees. Dual credit enrollment in the fall of 2014 showed 523 students from Alvin ISD and 605 students from Pearland ISD. In May of last year 31 students graduated from college with a two-year degree a week before graduating from high school. As Albrecht describes it, “these students are transferring off to colleges and universities as a junior. Pretty phenomenal. We expect that number to continue to grow as more students are fed through the pipeline. Even if they don’t earn a full degree, many of them earn valuable hours that gives them a jump-start on their college career.” Studies show these students are far more likely to complete their college education, which means they will get better jobs and earn more money.
The college offers various leisure and non-degree activities such as computer and software training, personal enrichment, physical fitness, and safety education in areas such as motorcycle riding and concealed handgun training. Additionally, the college provides other areas of cultural enrichment for the community. Performing and visual arts, music, and sports are all part of campus life that are made available for community enjoyment.
The college’s taxing area is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the area comprised by the Alvin Independent School District. In addition to the taxing area, the college has a service area that is legislatively determined that is above and beyond the taxing area. Danbury ISD and parts of Pearland comprise that service area. Students of the college who reside outside the taxing area pay a higher tuition, which is about double the rate for students in district. 45% of students live in the district. Albrecht explains the higher cost “does not cover the full cost of tuition but it does help us recoup some.” In addition to student tuition and fees, the college is funded by local property taxes and money from the state.
The college originated in 1948 when voters in the Alvin Independent School District authorized its creation. In 1971 a separate administration, tax district, and College Board was established to manage a newly created Alvin Junior College District. Up to that time the college’s management was borne by the school district. Initially the college was part of Alvin High School and shared facilities with grades 11 through 14. In 1959 the college successfully met the standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and was better supported by additional facilities and a larger faculty.
Alvin Community College moved to its present campus in the summer of 1963 with the construction of buildings to house Academics, Science, and a Student Center. In 1974 voters approved an expansion of the college district that nearly doubled its geographical size and in 1975 voters approved an $8 million bond issue that provided funding for the facilities that generally comprise the campus as it exists today. In 2004 voters approved a $19.2 million bond for the Science/Health Science Building which opened in 2007.
In 2008 the campus experienced significant devastation resulting from Hurricane Ike. College administrators used the misfortune as opportunity, however, and completed a substantial renovation of the campus which had grown tired after more than forty years of service. The Alvin campus today comprises 113 acres and 15 buildings. Enrollment has grown from 134 students in 1949 to nearly 5,000 students in 2014.
In looking toward the future, Albrecht explained the Board of Regents approved the preparation of a facilities master plan that will look at current facilities to determine what should be renovated or repaired, consider possible new buildings for the main Alvin campus, and look toward where the demographic trends are taking the college as it looks to potentially expand to the fast growing west side of the college’s service area. “We think there could really be a need for us to be over there,” she says. She also will be looking at what services the college should be offering at the Alvin campus and at a potential second location. She does expect the college to consider a bond election as funding would be required to realize any expansion of facilities.
Albrecht is hopeful of soon selling the college’s Pearland campus which was abandoned due to a lack of economic viability. That campus has been for sale for some time but only recently has a more determined effort been undertaken with the hiring of a professional broker to effectively market the site. Funds from that sale could be used to perhaps acquire the land for a new location.