School Profile: WCCC offers an achievable education

By: Cecile Juliette Email
By: Cecile Juliette Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Heather Exby is Director of Student Services at Western Colorado Community College. She has an impressive resume, including extensive travel and an Ivy League education. After spending many years living in other parts of the country, the Montrose native decided to bring her family back to the Western Slope. Now she's in charge of making sure students who enroll at WCCC not only have the means to pay for their education, but the ability to make their educational journey a success.

Exby says everyone is welcome at the small community college off of 25 Road.

WCCC is home to the non-traditional student. Exby says "We have students who run the gamut. We have people fresh out of high school, looking to start their college careers. We have students who have never been to school, it may have been 20 years they've been out of high school. They're coming back. We have people who've been unemployed, and are coming back for retraining. We had some people yesterday whose jobs had been shipped overseas ."

Becky Jones embodies the non-traditional spirit. She's been married for more than 20 years, and is raising a young son. Recently, Jones enrolled at WCCC to earn credit for math, which she hopes to use to transfer into Mesa State College. She says,"I probably will be for 6 months to a year before I can be accepted into the accounting program at Mesa State." Of her experience, She says, "I love it. The teachers are great. They're very helpful, they're very understanding when you've been out of school, it's been 27 years since I've been out of high school."

Many local chefs hail the culinary arts school at WCCC. On any given day, you'll find the cooking school students chopping, dicing, and blending vegetables, cheese, and meat. Suzanne Hanzl already has a degree from Mesa State in political science. But now she's enrolled at WCCC to achieve an associates degree in cooking. But more importantly, she says she wants to learn a more advanced way to cook, so she can teach families, and especially children, how to make healthful meals. She says, "I did actually look around at other cooking schools, but we love the Grand Valley so we moved back here. I made the decision to go here because it's small, you get lots of hands-on direction from the instructors. It's a really nice, close community school."

Nick Prinster worked for more than 25 years as a project managers, until being laid off. Prinster says he thought about how to become more flexible with the current economic environment, so he decided on a career change. Despite the fact that he was in his fifties, he made the decision to come back to school.

Prinster says "the teachers use my experience in the workforce in the classroom as a teaching tool for younger students."

Student Services Director Exby stresses that not only do they make it a point to welcome anyone interested in attending, but they want to make it as affordable as possible. A two year associates degree runs between $10,000 and $12,000, depending on the program. But she adds that more than 70 percent of the students at the college receive some sort of financial aid, or grant. She says this is why anyone interested should contact her at the student services office, and ask about their options.

WCCC is also part of the Mesa State College system. That means Mesa State classes can be taken at WCCC. The campus is small, intimate, and quiet, and the parking is free.

For more information, visit or call (970) 255-2600

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