March 16, 2011

If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

That’s what officials at Robeson Community College are doing as they will make another run at establishing a licensed practical nursing program on that campus. Currently, RCC offers two nursing programs, one for nursing assistants, and an associates program for registered nurses, so the establishment of a licensed practical nursing program would fill in the missing link.

RCC is proposing a year-long program that would have room for 24 students. It would be heavy with night classes to accommodate people with daytime responsibilities, such as jobs and children. Upon graduation, those students would be well-positioned to enter a field with an average salary of about $42,000 in the United States.

The need is clear: Health care in Robeson County, which boasts an aging population, is one of few growing industries locally, and the LPN program would provide coveted jobs to nurses who could provide care to a growing number of people in need.

But those conditions also existed in 2007 when RCC first sought an LPN program, a pursuit that ended without success for reasons that were never satisfactorily explained. We will give you a brief review, and then move on.

At the time, Bladen Community College, which has an LPN program, opposed one at RCC, saying that many of its students came from Robeson County, and that another program nearby might imperil BCC’s. The North Carolina Community College System, which was then headed by President Martin Lancaster, apparently agreed, suggesting a joint venture between the community colleges that RCC did not embrace. Convinced that the application was headed toward a dead end, RCC officials withdrew the college’s application.

There was every reason to believe then, and nothing in the interim has pointed toward a new direction, that the decision was political, and in no way based on Robeson County’s best interests.

Well, Lancaster is no longer president of the North Carolina Community College System, and Bladen Community College has a new leader as well, so RCC officials believe that there is a new climate, one that is favorable.

More will be known in May when the North Carolina Community College board and the North Carolina Board of Nursing are expected to review RCC’s application.

But the guess here is that RCC will not have to try, try again.