Perry to celebrate opening of new community college

Affordable and convenient – those are two things that students like about the new Highland Community College in Perry.

The school will have a celebration today marking the school’s August opening.

“I’ve been needing to get back to school for quite a while,” said Eric Hegeman, 26, of Topeka, who is taking classes in biology, math, history and public speaking. “I really like their prices and the way their classes were set up. It was really just a good fit, a good starting point for me.”

Laura Lorson, local “All Things Considered” host for Kansas Public Radio, will be the keynote speaker at the 11:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony in the school’s lobby.

Lorson said the 400 students who started school in August at HCC are committed to education.

“You have to seek it out. You have to want it,” said Lorson, who lives in Perry. “And people in a community college have to want it. I admire that.”

HCC is in the former Perry-Lecompton Middle School, 203 W. Bridge St. It was purchased by the HCC Foundation in July for $170,000, and $100,000 worth of upgrades were added.

“For people that are considering college, it provides affordable access right near their home,” said David Reist, HCC president. “It will be a lot less expensive for them to go to school.”

A credit hour costs $87 for in-state residents.

Laren Jacobs, a math teacher, was excited about this school year.

“I love being at the very beginning of the campus,” said Jacobs, who teaches differential equations and statistics.

The other full-time faculty member in biological sciences will be joined by 30 other part-time adjunct faculty in a range of subjects from fine arts to history to physics.

HCC began offering night classes at Perry-Lecompton High School in 2003.

But when Perry-Lecompton voters approved a bond issue in November 2004 to build a middle school, the HCC Foundation stepped in to acquire the 18-room building.

“We wanted to stay in Perry,” said Craig Mosher, executive assistant to the HCC president. “If you look at the demographics of that area, it’s accessible to people coming out of Topeka and people coming out of Lawrence, in addition to Oskaloosa : and the other communities.”

First chartered in Kansas in 1858, HCC serves nine counties in northeast Kansas and offers courses at 38 locations.

In addition, five other permanent regional centers, including the Perry center, are owned or leased as larger and centrally located facilities that offer full-time staff and daytime as well as evening classes.

Today’s ceremony is open to the public.

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