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NW-SCC course offerings show five-year decline

With community concern about the future of Northwest-Shoals Community College's Phil Campbell campus, a look at the number of courses offered over the past five years seems to raise more questions about whether the campus remains as part of the college's long-term vision.

According to the course schedule of classes offered in the fall of 2013-2017, the Phil Campbell campus has seen a decline of 26 courses offered from fall 2013 to this fall's course offerings.

The fall 2013 course schedule offered 217 total classes at the Phil Campbell campus. That number dropped to 190 in the fall of 2014, increased to 203 in the fall of 2015 before dropping to 190 in the fall of 2016 and 191 in the fall of 2017.

Outgoing NW-SCC President Humphrey Lee recently announced that 16 employees were to be let go either immediately or at the end of the current semester.

Two campus security officers from the Phil Campbell campus were notified of the elimination of their positions. The college now contracts with a private security company, G4S, with the same number of campus security personnel on each campus according to a spokesman for the school.

The cuts and the reduced course offerings lead former NW-SCC student and Phil Campbell city councilman Mike McQuary to believe the campus' future is in jeopardy.

These cuts are just another step in the process. Their whole intention is to just phase out Phil Campbell. We've been hearing that for a while and we saw it when they phased out sports here and now it's just a matter of cutting out Phil Campbell completely,” McQuary said.

Lee said nothing concrete about the Phil Campbell campus' future when asked last month by the Franklin Free Press if he would commit to keep NW-SCC Phil Campbell open as long as he remained president of the college. Lee recently announced he will be stepping down at the end of this year from his position.

The Phil Campbell and Shoals campus play vital roles in the success of Franklin and Colbert County and the rest of Northwest Alabama. I am committed to using the college's resources to provide the students on each campus with the best educational environment and instructional opportunities possible,” Lee said when queried about the future of the Phil Campbell campus.

Longtime NW-SCC vice president Glenda Colagross has been named interim president for the college, effective last week. Colagross, who has served as interim president for Southern Union College since 2013, has more than 20 years' experience at NW-SCC.

Colagross gave a much more positive outlook when asked about the Phil Campbell campus' future.

There are no plans to phase out either the Phil Campbell or Muscle Shoals campus of Northwest-Shoals Community College,” Colagross said last Tuesday.

According to information from the college, there has been a steady drop in credit hour production the last five years. From the fall 2013 semester to the fall 2017 semester, that drop was 23.3 percent for the Phil Campbell campus of NW-SCC. Enrollment in fall 2013 was 734, compared to 612 this semester, a drop of 16.6 percent. Credit hour production in fall 2013 was 7,231 credit hours, compared to 5,540 this fall.

Whether the reduction in enrollment is a result of fewer course offerings or fewer course offerings are the result of reduced enrollment remains the classic 'chicken or egg' question.

McQuary wants to turn to the area's state legislators to safeguard against the 'continued erosion' of the Phil Campbell campus.

The first thing we have to do is get our state legislators involved. Our senator and representative could help us, as well as Congressman Robert Aderholt,” McQuary said recently.

Maybe we need to set up a meeting with Dr. Lee and voice our concerns with him. We have to get some people involved who are willing to step up to the plate and save this college. If something's not done, Phil Campbell is on its way out,” he added.

When asked whether he would be willing to meet with community leaders and the public to address their concerns about the future of the Phil Campbell campus, Lee was noncommittal.

I speak with community leaders in Franklin County every opportunity I have. I am open to the concerns of our residents and community leaders,” Lee said.

Perhaps Colagross will have a different outlook on meeting with and addressing concerns of Franklin County residents about the future of their college.

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