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QCC Offers Solutions for Post-Pandemic Recovery

Contact: Karen Hutner
Office of Institutional Communications
khutner [at]

Release Date: 

WORCESTER, MA—May 6, 2021—   A Community Conversation hosted by Quinsigamond Community College for government, social service and religious organizations in Worcester drew over 60 attendees this week. The hour-long virtual meeting addressed ways to accelerate economic and civic recovery post-pandemic, using education as a pathway to success. The College gave a snapshot into what it can offer the organizations, which serve the underrepresented populations in Worcester and surrounding communities that have been so devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have the programs and the training and together with our community organizations’ help we can thrive. We are counting on you and your partnerships to achieve this,” President Luis G. Pedraja, Ph.D. said.

Chair for the QCC Board of Trustees Sue Mailman noted that as a community college, QCC has the unique ability to deliver pathways that will help Worcester communities grow and prosper.

“We need to get ahead of the game and lead the way in retraining and developing a stronger Worcester,” Ms. Mailman said. “We need to create conditions for our underrepresented populations to succeed and community colleges have a real lead in this.”

QCC’s Vice President of Academic Affairs James Keane, Ed.D., said the pandemic proved to the world just how nimble a community college could be, and what was learned would be beneficial for years to come. He described the two-week timeframe in which QCC successfully transitioned to remote instruction and said the new virtual course modalities, coupled with increased online support services, have increased access and engagement in higher education, particularly for adult learners.  Dr. Keane described new advisory boards that are a part of each college program. Board members advise on relevant workforce curriculum and course design to prepare students when they enter the workforce.

Lillian Ortiz, Ed.D., vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Engagement, highlighted the financial opportunities available at QCC.  The College received $13 million in Cares Act funds that have helped 3,800 students impacted by the pandemic with tuition, fees, laptops etc.  An additional $9 million is still to be awarded.

“The core mission of the College is to remove barriers that impede students from attending college,” she said.

Other supports and resources of note include the Student Success Center with its academic tutoring, QCC’s Food Pantry that feeds approximately 50 families per week throughout the year, and the Resource Center that coordinates with local agencies to offer assistance for students in need.

“We have a strong mentoring program and our Accessibility Services Department that serves 1,000 students annually on campus, offering accessible, equitable and inclusiveness to all members of the community,” Dr. Ortiz said, adding, “We have also been designated as a military friendly school.”

Carol King, dean of College and Career Pathways told of QCC’s 25 free English literacy programs from beginner to intermediate, as well as the HiSet and GED programs that even include a GED prep classes in Spanish.

“We understand the challenges of going back to school as an adult,” she said. “We offer free college readiness classes virtually any day and time.”

Kathie Manning, dean of Center for Workforce Development & Continuing Education described the flexibility of the programs and training that is being offered such as a new online, self-paced, professional development training subscription model. She said the College offers numerous programs at low to no cost and many even support transportation and childcare. Recent programs have included nurse assistant/home health aide, help desk, medical assistant and lead teachers for early childhood programs, with some offered in Spanish. 

“Programs generally take six months to complete and classes begin every week throughout the year,” she said.

Nichole Wheeler, coordinator Career Services & Credit for Prior Learning mentioned the variety of ways students can gain credits for prior life experiences and save money and time.

“We meet with students and evaluate and match what they have with QCC courses to try and give them college credit,” said.

According to Dr. Pedraja, the COVID-19 pandemic brought unique conditions to community colleges that have historically seen an upsurge in enrollment during economic downturns. Today, on a national level 40% percent of students are now canceling their plans to enroll in college with 30% giving COVID-19 related reasons. Diverse populations have seen the steepest declines in college enrollment. However, He told the organizations in attendance there is reason to be hopeful as the region looks ahead.

“Hope is at the core of who we are at a community college. We are a beacon of hope for our students and our community. Losing students impacts us as an entire community and we cannot thrive if we leave anyone behind,” Dr. Pedraja said. “It takes a community to help students succeed and you know where your needs are and with your help, we can reach out and find strategies to bring people to college. “

For more information about QCC, contact Josh Martin, Director of Institutional Communications at 508.854.7513 or jmartin [at]

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Quinsigamond Community College is the most affordable higher education in Worcester County. As a regional leader in education and workforce development, QCC serves the diverse educational needs of Central Massachusetts by providing affordable, accessible, and high quality programming leading to transfer, career, and lifelong learning.