by Jim Mulligan
Whether you are a Reedleyite or a resident of one of the surrounding towns, you know how great it is to have a community college right in our backyard. Since 1926 Reedley College has provided higher education for residents of the South Valley and beyond. Like so many of you, Reedley College is an integral part of my family’s educational history. Four generations of Mulligans are alumni; my grandmother in the early ‘40s, my parents, me, and several of my kids, all got our post-secondary start as a Tiger. Community college provides so many choices for people of all ages to attain a variety of educational goals.
In August, in an effort to continue to meet the demands of the communities it serves, Reedley College will launch its Extended Learning Pathway. The offerings include a plethora of non-credit courses that are tuition-free and open to anyone who lives in California (even if undocumented). While these courses will not count towards a degree or transfer to a four-year institution, they provide a great way for people to gain valuable knowledge and skills for other reasons. Students will need to pay a semester health fee ($21 for fall and spring on campus, $18 for summer and $13 for exclusively off campus) and materials costs; however, many classes use open educational resources that are also free. The Extended Learning Pathway offers a flexible schedule for adult learners. Students have access to the same support services (tutorial, health, counseling, etc.) as students in credit programs. Many of the Extended Learning classes are not separate from the credit classes of the same subject. They are taught by the same instructor using the same assignments, and in many cases, non-credit students and credit students will sit in the same classroom, together.
In addition to supporting students transitioning to college and needing support for college-level coursework, the Extended Learning programs were created to help community members gain skills to get a job or a better job – in education lingo, upskill. These programs support community members in lifelong learning.
Noncredit classes fall into ten categories. Reedley College has developed courses for adults to develop skills to enhance the quality of home, family, career, and community life. These courses include music, creative writing, art, horticulture, and physical education.
Parenting is another category. Three- to nine-hour Early Childhood Education courses were created for parents to learn about their child’s developmental milestones and strategies to help their child thrive. Additionally, courses in this category include American Sign Language. Joseph Lind, Reedley College ASL instructor and Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), says “90% of deaf individuals have hearing parents. Currently, parents and family members have limited access to ASL classes. Beginning in August, they can take these classes for free and locally.”Reedley College Extended Learning Pathway is filling another gap in the community with short-term vocational classes. Wildland Fire instructor Adam Hernandez says “Non-credit course work helps to reduce the barrier of entry for students entering into the Wildland Fire program at Reedley College. As the Wildland Fire Industry struggles with staffing difficulties, our non-credit training program option allows students to obtain entry and mid-level job skills and job placement assistance so that they may earn a living wage as well as fill the Wildland Fire employment gaps locally and regionally. Promotional potential within the Wildland Fire service requires a combination of educational requirements and practical experiences. Reedley College’s non-credit classes provide extended learning opportunities for industry professionals, providing the critical course work required for promotional potential and professional development.”
Nancy Gutierrez, Reedley College Plant Science instructor, says “The non-credit food safety course provides an opportunity for community members and local agriculture workers to receive a basic HACCP/food safety certification at no cost. The industry certification and knowledge gained in food safety is an appealing skill for employers in the food and agriculture industry. The new ag technology coursework and program at Reedley College provides foundational knowledge in the fruit tree industry and in new technologies being used in the field and packing facilities. We created the program as a noncredit opportunity so that the community could participate with no registration fees and so that our students could participate without adding units to their transcripts that don’t apply to their major.”Other short-term vocational programs include networking, web development, cyber security, office technology, welding, healthcare interpreting, business, and accounting.
Workforce Preparation is another noncredit category. Courses were created to prepare individuals looking for employment or to upskill individuals that are already employed. Dr. Linda Carvalho Cooley who created Extended Learning communication courses for workforce preparation says, “Communication skills are often cited as one of the most important skills needed in business. Individuals may not want a degree but recognize that the need to communicate successfully is a skill that can be learned. Offering some short-term non-credit communication courses is our way of providing these skills to anyone in our community who wants to communicate better.”Serving students with substantial disabilities is another category of noncredit. Linda Reither, Reedley College Learning Disability Specialist, says, “The Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS) decided to offer noncredit classes focused on basic computer skills because community members will learn about disability support services while building the technological literacy skills that are needed for full inclusion in today’s world.”
While these tuition-free classes eliminate a financial barrier, Rebecca Al Haider, Reedley College Coordinator of Noncredit Programs, is working hard to remove other barriers. Students have access to free or supplemented childcare. The college is partnering with local school districts to offer off-site classes to remove the transportation barrier.
To learn more about Reedley College Extended Learning, visit www.reedleycollege.edu/extended-learning, call (559) 494-3011 for application assistance, or email Rebecca.alhaider@reedleycollege[dot]edu.
The fall semester is August 8 through December 9 with classes beginning at various times.
You can find more Reedley stories in our Reedley News section.