COA fall term begins: Students return to campus changes
By Reggie Ponder
Thursday, August 17, 2017
College of The Albemarle students started classes for the fall semester Wednesday amid a number of facility-related changes on the Elizabeth City campus.
One big change is the opening of the new Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Early College High School, which is housed on the second floor of Building C. Students enrolled in the new high school started classes in the building last week.
Also, the library is temporarily located in the study room of the college’s Dolphins Den student center. There were eight laptop computers on hand Wednesday afternoon and COA’s library staff were looking for more. Renovation of the regular library space is expected to begin in early October.
The Dolphins Den itself is relatively new space for students to relax and study. Student Brian Kingston pointed out that the Dolphins Den didn’t exist when he first started taking classes at COA.
Kingston, 22, is a Currituck resident and 2014 graduate of J.P. Knapp Early College High School who is studying computer programming at COA.
“I should be finishing up this year,” said Kingston.
Kingston, who is earning an associate of science degree and hopes to transfer to Elizabeth City State University, said he enjoys working with computers.
Student Erica Sultani was seated at a table in the Dolphins Den Wednesday afternoon reading an assignment from her psychology textbook.
“So far it looks like psychology might be a challenge,” said Sultani, 26.
But she added that she likes science and thinks that since psychology is a science she she should enjoy the class.
Sultani is working on an associate of arts degree with a concentration in fine arts. Her studies include the history of art as well as topics such as design and painting. Her main focus in her own artwork is storyboarding, she said.
Sultani said she hopes to finish her degree in 2018 or early 2019.
The “friendly staff” is one of her favorite things about attending COA, she said, adding many of the students also are friendly. Her favorite subjects include history and English.
The return of students to COA for the beginning of the fall term came of the heels of the college having been named one of the 10 best community colleges in the country by the website smartasset.com. COA was ranked eighth on the website's annual ranking of community colleges.
"College of the Albemarle does an excellent job offering students an affordable education," SmartAsset said in a statement accompanying the ranking. The website cited data it says shows annual in-state tuition and fees at COA costing only $2,211 — the lowest amount of the top 10 colleges in the ranking.
COA also graduates or transfer 62 percent of its students, which is 22 percent higher than the national average, SmartAsset said.
The website also had praise for the state's community colleges generally, noting five of the top 10 this year are located in North Carolina.
"Community colleges in North Carolina tend to be affordable while doing a good job graduating their students," the website said.
The other four North Carolina schools in the top 10 were Pamlico Community College in Grantsboro, which ranked first; Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, ranked sixth; Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine, ranked ninth; and Tri-County Community College in Murphy, ranked 10th.
Kingston said what he enjoys most about COA are its people and the atmosphere.
“The staff is great,” Kingston said. “I have had some pretty great professors here.”
His biggest challenge this year probably will be deciding where to go next, he said. Although he is leaning toward ECSU he said he still hasn’t completely made up his mind.
Sedrick Bingham, 19, is taking a music appreciation course this semester and said he’s looking forward to the class. He explained that he isn’t yet enrolled in a specific degree program but thinks he would eventually like to earn a degree in math.
Bingham works at Walmart and lives in Elizabeth City. He went to Pasquotank County High School but was in Florida right after high school. This is his first year at COA.
“I always wanted to come here,” Bingham said.