LTCC cooks up increase in enrollment |

LTCC cooks up increase in enrollment

Sara Thompson

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

The cafeteria kitchen at Lake Tahoe Community College was filled Monday with eager culinary arts students, who carefully rolled pie crusts for a pumpkin pie filling.

They cautiously maneuvered around each other to avoid damaging their handiwork – an effort that may have been more difficult than in years past as the culinary arts classes see a surge in enrollment.

Nineteen students signed up this fall for Culinary Arts 102: Principles and Practices of Basic Food Preparation. The same class last fall had eight students, said Steve Fernald, LTCC culinary arts program coordinator and instructor.

“Hard economic times tend to bring people into vocational education,” Fernald said.

Student Patrick Fimple has worked as a truck driver and a landscaper, among many other jobs. Fimple, who has taken Fernald’s classes before, is ready for another career change.

“This is my last profession before I retire,” Fimple said. “You name it, I’ve done it.”

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Lori Gaskin, LTCC’s vice president of Academic Affairs and Student Services, said full-time college enrollment appears to have increased for the fall quarter.

According to the latest enrollment count, the number of full-time students increased by 7.6 percent from last fall – growing from 681 to 733 students.

Of those new students, 22 are from outside the area and checked out the college on its Web site, said Christina Proctor, LTCC’s public information officer.

The demand for student housing is up from last year, too. The Alder Inn, which has set aside rooms for LTCC students, has 17 students living there, compared with seven last fall.

It’s not unusual to see an increase in community college enrollments around the state when the economy isn’t performing well, Gaskin said.

“When (the economy) gets like this, it starts nudging people toward education,” Gaskin said.

Some people re-enter school to enhance their job skills. For others, it’s an opportunity to pursue higher education they might have put on hold, Gaskin said, and vocational education can be an attractive option.

Other LTCC programs that are experiencing growth include the fire science academy.

The Introduction to the Culinary Arts Profession class has, on average, 14 students. This year, Fernald is teaching 28.

“We had to switch classrooms to get a bigger space,” Fernald said.

The culinary arts program offers students the opportunity to earn an associate degree in culinary arts, a variety of certificates of achievement or an advanced certificate of achievement.

Fernald said a short-term certificate is available, and students can be trained for a job in two quarters.

“Short-term goals are helpful,” Fernald said. “That way, they can start working and possibly come back to earn an advanced certificate or a degree.”

Jamie Goodspeed, who is enrolled in Culinary Arts 102, said she has been cooking for six years and decided to take the class this quarter to learn more about the profession.

“I was going for the short-term certificate, but as I take more classes, I think I’m going for the whole degree,” she said.

The classes are a mix of students from various locations, Fernald said. Some are from the Lake Tahoe region, while others have traveled from the Bay Area or even from San Diego.

For the past three years, the program has grown steadily, Fernald said. The vocational education cooking classes are growing. The other culinary classes, such as wine tasting, sushi-making and culinary field trips, always have been well-attended. For all three quarters of the 2006-07 school year, 600 students enrolled in culinary arts classes; last year, 700 people took classes.

“We already have 300 students enrolled this fall,” Fernald said. “If this keeps up, we could have enrolled 900 students by the end of the year.”