Community College of Allegheny County's Fitness Center Keeps students On Campus

The fitness center at the Community College of Allegheny County, South Campus keeps students on campus, and encourages healthy living.

Community colleges are known to be "commuter colleges," with most or all students living off campus. Because of this, those in charge of college programs, events and services need to make an extra effort to keep students on campus and encourage them to participate. The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), South Campus Fitness Center, in West Mifflin, Pa., has done a great job of keeping students interested with free memberships, for-credit programs and managers who are open to suggestions from students. Says Fitness Center Supervisor Lori Paluti, "The CCAC South Campus Fitness Center has a student retention plan that focuses on providing programs and services that help students stay on campus beyond their scheduled class times."

The South Campus Fitness Center is available for students, faculty and staff at no charge. The facility is open year-round, and offers credit and non-credit health and physical education courses during the fall, spring and summer semesters.

Personal trainers play a key role in keeping members interested. They design fitness programs, perform fitness assessments, and teach workshops about health and fitness. Personal training services, fitness assessments and personal consultations are available free of charge to all students, faculty and staff, and include two private sessions. Trainers then continue to monitor their clients' progress throughout the semester. "This strategy has reduced the number of students, faculty and staff who discontinue their fitness program due to a lack of motivation and direction," says Paluti.

Community College of Allegheny County

South Campus Fitness Center
West Mifflin, Pa.
412 469-4309;

Date fitness facility opened: 1995

Fitness Facility size: 2,500 square feet

Number of daily guests: 100-200

Group exercise classes: Credit and non-credit courses in Physical Conditioning, Fitness Walking, Aerobic Fitness and Personal Conditioning

To have your fitness center featured, send an email describing your facility to [email protected].

In addition to keeping students on campus, the fitness center keeps them motivated off campus, as well. "Since most students are familiar with the Blackboard course management software that instructors use to teach online courses, the fitness center also set up a Blackboard site ... to keep students connected to the facility," Paluti says. Students log onto the system using their network ID and password, and then have immediate access to exercise programs, nutritional tips, upcoming workshops, special events, discussion boards and video webinars conducted by fitness center staff.

Another strategy to keep off-campus students interested in fitness is the distribution of free computer games. The fitness center designed a series of computer games for students that are based on the importance of staying healthy. Students can receive a free CD game whenever they visit the facility.

The CCAC South Campus Fitness Center's Mobile Fitness Program also keeps students and staff motivated to stay healthy. This service involves fitness staff visiting different areas of the campus to offer health information, free health-related product samples and motivational tips. Says Paluti, "This onsite recruitment strategy has increased the interest level of students, faculty and staff, and serves as a marketing strategy for the fitness center."

All of these services were designed after careful planning. To determine the right type of fitness equipment and programs to put in place, the South Campus Fitness Center conducts paper and online surveys, and encourages students, faculty and staff to submit their ideas. Paluti also meets with students on a one-to-one basis for their input, and the Student Government Association works closely with fitness center staff, and has provided funding for equipment purchases along with feedback about the direction of the facility. "These types of approaches keep students a vital part of the planning and development of the fitness center, and allow them to maintain their presence in some of the decision-making that occurs," Paluti says.

CCAC benefits from its fitness center in many ways, including keeping students on campus, and giving them opportunities to stay fit and healthy. Says Paluti, "The fitness center helps retain students, and provides a safe and friendly atmosphere that keeps students a vital part of the CCAC system."
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