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University chancellor visits KPC

Cheryl Siemers and Sean Parnell at Veronica's in Kenai Friday.
Sabine Poux
KPC Director Cheryl Siemers and UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell at Veronica's Cafe in Kenai Friday.

Enrollment at Kenai Peninsula College is increasing, in part as the school’s Middle College program for local high schoolers becomes more popular.

That’s according to Sean Parnell, chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage — the umbrella university system for KPC’s Kenai and Homer campuses.

Parnell — who has been chancellor since 2021 — visited the peninsula last week and said Friday the college is seeing growth in enrollment from year to year. That’s following a decline in enrollmentduring the pandemic.

“The last two semesters, they’ve grown 20% over the year prior,” Parnell said. “So it’s a pretty exciting place to be part of.”

Parnell said a big focus university-wide is on building up Alaska’s workforce, which has been shrinking statewide.

He pointed to KPC's process technology program, which has its roots in the oil and gas industry. He said there are still industry jobs in Cook Inlet and the North Slope that students can get into once they graduate.

“I’m not concerned that those jobs are going away any time soon, I think there’s still a lot of opportunity there,” he said.

But he said the program also has applications outside of the industry — in mineral extraction and seafood, for example.

“We also are moving with the times,” he said.

KPC Director Cheryl Siemers said the college also has a high rate of job placement for its welding program. And she said the college is seeing students enroll from out of state in its paramedic technology program.

“Because a lot of the teaching is done online,” she said. “But students can come in to take two-week intensives to get the hands-on training they need for paramedicine.”

In addition to workforce, Siemers said students are using the college as a springboard for other degree programs and certifications.

KPC is also in its third year of the Middle College program — which enrolls 11th and 12th graders from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in college courses, so they can get high school and college credits at the same time.

Parnell said this year, there are between 80 and 90 local high schoolers enrolled in the program — up from 21 in the first year and 35 in the second, according to the KPBSD.

“It’s something that wasn’t available even just a few years ago,” Parnell said. “So that’s a new and growing area we want the Kenai Peninsula residents to know about.’

Meanwhile, the dorms at the Kenai River Campus are still closed to students. The residence hall has been on hiatus since June 2020.

Parnell said that’s something the university system is evaluating how to move forward with now.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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