There's No Place Like Home
There’s no place like home for families searching for affordable higher education opportunities that will lead to long-term financial stability. Panola College offers academic classes leading to associate degrees, as well as applied science degrees and certificates that prepare students for immediate hiring in well-paying jobs from nursing to petroleum technology.
January 2018 marks the 70th anniversary for Panola College. Over the past seven decades, the College has changed its name, expanded its outreach to add campuses in Shelby and Harrison counties, and transformed the property at the corner of West Panola and Bird Drive into a showcase community college campus.
From its humble beginnings with surplus military buildings, the College has steadily grown in stature, both in its physical plant and its academic and technical offerings to the four-county area it serves.
Things were much different back in 1948 when the doors first opened for students. Monday, January 19, 1948, found the few buildings on the Panola College campus covered in a blanket of snow, but the storm didn’t deter 25 students from enrolling in the first semester of the College’s existence. By the first day of class that spring, 55 students were enrolled. The College’s success was immediate. By the fall semester of 1948, enrollment had jumped to 185 students—a record-breaking 236 percent increase.
Today, 70 years later, the College enrollment tops 2,700 students, including dual credit high school, traditional, and online students. In today’s global economic climate, a high school diploma is just step one on the road to success. Panola College administrators and faculty members work closely with corporate, business, industrial and governmental leaders to make sure the College is meeting their future needs for educated, highly trained and skilled employees.
“A recent example of our commitment to regional industry is the addition of our Ranch and Land Management degree program, which offers students an associate of applied science degree, or academic options for those seeking a bachelor’s degree,” says Panola College President Greg Powell.
The demands for higher education come at the same time that students and families are facing the economic burdens of skyrocketing tuition and fees across the board from public and private universities. Financial aid for qualifying families eases the burden somewhat, but student debt has become a nationwide problem.
“We are proud that tuition and fees at Panola College are 40 percent less than public universities and 80 percent less than private universities,” says Powell. “Our students seeking a four-year degree from a public university can complete the two-year associate degree and transfer to the university of their choice with those core curriculum requirements satisfied. This alone can save families approximately $20,000.”
That estimate is based on 12 semester hours for in-district students. At Panola, the cost is less than $1,000, while at regional universities, tuition and fees for those same 12 semester hours will cost between $4,000 and $5,000. And that’s before factoring in the cost of room and board, as well as other living expenses away from home.
Another way Panola College is working to help students and their families is by aggressively pursuing guided pathways from high school to Panola College and on to universities. The College has established articulation agreements with several universities, and plans to continue to forge new alliances in the coming year.
A recent report published by The Texas Tribune compared educational outcomes in Texas counties. According to the report, 24.7 percent of Panola County students complete a post-secondary degree, a higher percentage than the state average and higher than nearby counties.
“Each year, approximately 300,000 students begin eighth grade in a Texas public school. National employment and earnings statistics suggest that these students will have materially better prospects as adults if they finish high school and enroll in and complete a post-secondary certificate or degree program,” the Tribune reported.
Many of the highest-earning professional positions require a college degree, and over the course of time, college graduates earn about $1.3 million more than high school graduates. Higher education is a lifetime investment in the future.
There’s no place like home, not only for the degree seeking student, but also for community members who take advantage of the cultural, continuing education, and recreational opportunities available from Panola College.
“Our fine arts programs are always crowd-pleasers, whether it’s Jazz on the Quad, the Pipers Halloween Show, Christmas in Carthage, or our Theater Department’s annual Dinner Theater,” Powell says. “Our athletic teams—volleyball, basketball, baseball and rodeo—bring in fans from around the area who want to see college-level sports right here at home.”
The health science faculty and students are heavily involved in community activities, including students working in clinical settings in area hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home health organizations. Student organizations build ramps for disabled citizens, raise funds for local charities, and volunteer at public schools.
Carthage is a college town. The partnership between Panola College and the community it serves provides an anchor of economic and social stability to the region. The College brings in students, faculty and staff members who live here, go to church here, shop locally, and volunteer in community organizations.
“We at Panola College are proud to celebrate our 70th anniversary, and we appreciate the support from our community today and as we work to meet the future needs of the people we serve. There truly is no place like home, and Panola College is proud to call Carthage our home,” Powell says.