LSCO helps keep the wheels on the bus turning

Published 5:15 am Saturday, January 22, 2022

By Dawn Burleigh

A meeting between Orange County superintendents and Lamar State College Orange (LSCO) resulted in a new course offered at the college – school bus driver’s certification.

“We listen to what the community needs,” LSCO President Dr. Thomas Johnson said.

In a matter of two weeks, the college was able to obtain a brand-new school bus for training students, and the first class starts on Monday.

LSCO also announced on Wednesday that its Fall 2020 to Fall 2021 comparison of academic enrollment numbers remained essentially flat, despite a pandemic and economic downturn, and its workforce (non-credit) enrollment saw an enormous increase of 483% over the same period. This is compared with a statewide decline of 11% in community college enrollment in Texas during the pandemic, according to the Texas Tribune.

“I couldn’t be prouder to share this stunning news of increased enrollment in what has been an understandably challenging year for many educational institutions across the state,” Johnson said.

“I want to thank our dedicated faculty and our Provost, Dr. Wendy Elmore, for her leadership, and her team, for working steadfastly to engage our community members where they are,” Johnson said.

Academic (credit) enrollment in Fall 2021 when compared to Fall 2020 declined by 1.2%, or a deficit of 29 students. Workforce enrollment expanded exponentially by a 483% increase over the same period, with enrolled hours also jumping 185%. The significant workforce enrollment increase is due to LSCO receiving two grants in 2021 that allowed for new course offerings in Truck Driving, Court Reporting, English as a Second Language, and Safety Training. When academic and workforce numbers are combined, LSCO saw an overall increase in enrollment of 15.6%, or nearly 16%.

“These incredibly exciting numbers tell an important story of the unbelievable team we have at LSCO. They tell us that we are meeting the needs of our students at a time when most community colleges in the state have declined significantly in enrollment. And this is just the beginning. We have more exciting programs and degrees on the horizon here at LSCO that will help make the futures even brighter for our neighbors,” Johnson said.

The news comes after the announcement of a $37.4 million capital allocation to LSCO from the Texas Legislature for a new academic building and over $1 million in the past month in grants from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission.

As well as offering certification for school bus drivers, the college also offers trucking driving CDL training.

“We were told the city had a need training for fork lifts and dump trucks,” Johnson said. “We now provide that as well.”

With courses now at eight weeks, shorten from 16-weeks, it also allows for students to enter the work force quicker to help fill the demand of employees at local industries and businesses.