Holyoke Community College (HCC) is located in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Founded in 1946, this two-year public college has produced more than 100,000 graduates in its short history. The main campus in Holyoke is built on 135 acres of land and, to serve its ever-rising number of students, the college has two other satellite locations – the Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center (PAFEC) located in downtown Holyoke and the Ludlow Area Adult Learning Center (LAALC) located on Winsor Street in Ludlow.
Demographically, the student population is a mixture of first-time college students and returning seniors. The majority of the students are aged between 20 and 24 while an almost equally huge number are less than 20 years. Close to 10% of students are over 45 years old. Over 60% of the students are females. While the majority of the students are white (70%), other races are fairly well-represented here as there are a good number of Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and a sizeable number of international students.
Every year, HCC serves more than 9,000 students. The college offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs covering very diverse areas of study. The college has over 30 departments offering associate degrees and a very broad range of certificate courses. The diverse departments include art, adult and basic education, arts and humanities, business, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The college also has departments offering studies in culinary arts, environmental science, deaf studies and communication, media and theater arts among many others.
The department of Communication, Media and theater arts (CMTA) imparts the skills students need to either transfer to a four-year institution or to immediately enter the job market as media professionals. Graduates of CMTA are trained to become filmmakers, radio presenters, actors, theater technicians, multimedia designers, journalists and web designers.
The college’s Criminal Justice department offers certificate and degree courses in forensic science. The Forensic Science Certificate targets people who are already in law enforcement but wish to learn the latest technologies in the field, and students who are not yet ready to enter the degree program. For students wishing to transfer to a four-year institution, the department offers education that leads to the award of an associate of science degree. Such graduates could also use the degree to obtain employment as forensic technicians.
Since a sizeable proportion of students joining this school are adult, the college has established the department of Adult Basic Education to adequately serve this group. The college has the largest Adult Education and GED Testing Center in Massachusetts and conducts adult learning at the main campus and in two other centers.
Students studying at HCC with the intention of transferring to a four-year institution study with the confidence that they will transfer easily as the college has articulation arrangements with over 27 universities and colleges. Through the college’s Pathways Program, the college assists students from underrepresented groups transfer to institutions such as Hampshire and Amherst. In total, about 40% of undergraduates are able to transfer every year.
HCC is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and endorsed by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.
Most Popular Fields of Study
HCC operates a rolling admissions policy enabling most students to enroll at any time. Most programs commence in fall with a sizeable number beginning in spring. Prospective students should, however, note that some programs have specific commencement dates. Some of the college’s nursing, veterinary and animal health programs only accept new students in fall.
The basic requirement for admission to the college’s programs is possession of a high school diploma. In its absence, the college accepts a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Students with neither of these basic diplomas could also get admitted by the sitting and passing an ability-to-benefit test.
The college also runs the HCC Early Admit Program which enables students in high school or those obtaining home education to take the college’s courses before they obtain their high school diplomas. Students applying to be admitted to this program are required to have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5. The student must also obtain the approval of his or her guidance counselor and parent or guardian.
Before admission, applicants to the early admit program are required to take placement testing which tests their skills in reading comprehension, sentence skills and arithmetic. HCC requires applicants to obtain minimum Accuplacer scores of 55, 60 and 34 in reading comprehension, sentence skills and arithmetic respectively. On admission, the student must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 or be discontinued from the early admit program.
Students attending have many sources of financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants and loans. The college assists many needy students through its HCC Foundation which awards scholarship valued at over $100,000 each year. Applications for HCC Foundations scholarships have to be received by February.
While a student needs to apply to be considered for Foundation scholarships, the college also awards several Talent Grants for which no application is necessary. These are limited and are only awarded to exceptionally gifted students.
Students who are residents of Massachusetts could apply for the MassMutual Scholars – Career Pathway Program which is administered by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. This program provides scholarships for students seeking careers in financial services, business or information technology. Moreover, such students get the opportunity to take part in seminars organized by MassMutual and therefore get an early opportunity to interact with professionals in their chosen careers. Amounts awarded vary but a student could receive up to $5,000 per year.
To be eligible for the MassMutual scholarship, a student must be resident in either Hampden or Hartford County and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
State and Federal Financial Aid
There are several state and federal sources of financial aid. One of the grants awarded by the state is the MassGrant which is available for undergraduate students attending community colleges in Massachusetts. Amounts awarded vary but could be as high as $900 per year.
The state also awards the HCC Financial Aid Tuition Waiver which can waive tuition fees up to 100% for needy undergraduates. Undergraduates could also benefit from the Massachusetts Furcolo Access Grant which also covers tuition expenses. The Part-time Students Grant from the state awards amounts ranging from $200 to $450 per year to undergraduate students.
Federal grants available for students include the Federal Pell Grant which awards varying amounts which could be in excess of $5,000 per year. Pell grants are awarded to students who demonstrate financial need in their application with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). When FAFSA determines that the applicant’s needs are exceptional, the applicant could also qualify for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG).
Pell eligible students could also receive the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) which awards money to first year undergraduates. Students in their second year can receive a significant amount of money.
In collaboration with federal authorities, HCC participates in the Federal Work Study (FWS) program which provides part-time employment for needy students. Students in this program are allowed to work for 10 to 12 hours per week at competitive rates during the school year. During vacations, such students could work for longer hours.
Students could also apply for federal loans. The government offers Direct Subsidized Stafford and Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans. These are low-interest loans which have flexible repayment plans. Parents of needy students could also apply for the Federal Direct PLUS Loans.
Student Financial Aid Details
Student Clubs and Organizations
There are more than 50 clubs and organizations which students can join. The clubs and organizations are divided into three categories – academic, interest and identity.
Academic clubs have names closely resembling the names of the departments from which they draw members. Some of the clubs in this category include the Criminal Justice Association, the Photography club, the Vet Tech club, hospitality and culinary services and the psychology club.
Clubs and organizations under the identity class include the Asian American Student organization, the Latino International, the Queer/Straight Alliance, the Slavics and the SHALOM Jewish Students organization.
Interest clubs are many and include environmental action, social justice, yoga, wildlife society and job hunters support. Members of clubs benefit by both meeting like-minded people and taking part in club events.
There are several annual events which members of certain clubs and organizations look forward to. The business association, for example, organizes a tour of New York for its members while the music club has an annual jazz festival. The photography club organizes an annual visit to Washington DC while the Asian students club leads its members in celebrating the Asian New Year.
Student Enrollment Demographics
The range of athletic activities available is huge and includes basketball, cross country, soccer, volleyball, softball and golf. The college is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and its teams compete in the Massachusetts Community College Athletic Conference.
Achievements by the college’s teams include some state championships and national appearances. In 2007, the college’s women’s basketball team won the state and New England championship while the women’s soccer team won the New England championship in the same year. In 2006, the college’s cross country team competed in the national championship.
Carrie Petersen earned her Bachelors of Science in Education and a Masters of School leadership at Northern Illinois University. Carrie likes to travel with her husband and two sons.