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ANNIVERSARY ISSUE Tidewater Community College teaches students for 45 years

Updated: December 20, 2013 - 3:41 pm

Posted: December 20, 2013

Tidewater Community College's founding started with an idea and a donation. In 1966, then-Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. initiated a state sales tax with the goal of creating a state community college system. Two years later, the Beazley Foundation donated the Frederick College site in what is now north Suffolk to start a community college in South Hampton Roads.

The school has since grown its footprint with campuses in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. It serves about 45,000 students annually, making it the second largest undergraduate student body in the state. According to school officials, 51 percent of South Hampton Roads residents who enrolled in higher education did so at TCC.

TCC has been an innovator in terms of how it serves its students, officials said. It's the first accredited school in the country to launch a textbook-free degree using online open educational resources, or OERs. The school has spent $84.1 million developing student centers over the past several years, including one on the Norfolk campus that opened in May 2011. Student centers at the Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach campuses are scheduled to open over the next several months.

The school has its struggles, namely retention rates. According to data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, retention rate for first-time, full-time students in fall 2012 was 53.7 percent of the original cohort. That figure stood at 62.4 percent in 2011 and 62.9 percent in 2010.

The school's 45th anniversary year has involved several milestones. In addition to launching the textbook-free degree pilot, it also inaugurated Edna Baehre-Kolovani as its fifth president; convened the region's first job summit and brought in Virginia's gubernatorial candidates; and opened the Joint Use Library on its Virginia Beach campus through a partnership with the city of Virginia Beach.

Next year, officials said, it will adopt strategic enrollment management, aim to increase dually enrolled high school students and offer child-care services on all four campuses through a partnership with the YWCA of South Hampton Roads.

- Jared Council