Mountwest Community and Technical College wants its former students to try again.
On June 11, the school had its first "Finish What You Started" event where former students who started school but never earned a degree could start the process of re-enrolling.
Several dozen people attended and talked with faculty and others from the various degree programs offered at the college. Billie Brooks, dean of student services, said she had hoped the turnout would be better.
MCTC mailed 5,500 invitations to former students who had attended since fall semester 2009, when MCTC administratively separated from Marshall University, and who had taken at least one class but not graduated.
"We probably could have waited until closer to the beginning of school. We may have another one in August," she said.
Carman Slone, an MCTC students in the medical assisting program, was at the event to encourage former students to re-enroll. She expects to graduate after fall semester, and she says she knows what the students considering re-entry are thinking.
"I started and just dropped out for 13 years," Slone said while showing two people who plan to re-enroll around the MCTC campus.
Slone said she had several life struggles, but she wanted a better life for her children.
"I want to be able to provide for them as a single mother," Slone said. "I wanted something better."
Slone is part of the Beacon project, which helps students stay in school.
MCTC officials point to the education level of West Virginians, particularly those in MCTC's service area, as a reason for encouraging former students to re-enroll. In Cabell, Mason and Wayne counties, nearly 30,000 people age 25 and older have some post-secondary education but have not earned a degree, school officials say. Mountwest itself has 5,539 people on record who have taken some classes since 2009 but have not earned a degree or a certificate and who are not currently enrolled at the college.
MCTC President Keith Cotroneo said programs are in place to help returning students adjust to school life and succeed. One of those is the Beacon project, which is funded with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, he said. MCTC used the money to hire six counselors and 15 peer coaches, he said.
Students who participate in the program are assigned a faculty mentor, a counselor and a peer coach, Cotroneo said. Students must take at least 6 hours of classes and they must agree to certain terms. They must attend class, see their counselor twice a month and complete an education plan, he said. If they struggle with a class, they must get tutoring, he said.
"We call it a mutual responsibility agreement," Cotroneo said.
The class attendance requirement is not just for students in the Beacon project, though, Cotroneo said. The school has just adopted a policy requiring students to attend at least 85 percent of their class sessions, he said. Instructors have the option of dropping students who are consistently absent, and students who are dropped lose eligibility for student loans, Cotroneo said.