SARANAC LAKE - North Country Community College wants to attract more older, continuing education students to help boost its sagging enrollment.
College President Steve Tyrell said Tuesday that the decline in enrollment, brought on by a drop-off in the population of high school students in the North Country, has led to significant budget cuts for the college. The college's proposed 2014-15 budget, presented recently to Essex and Franklin counties, includes a projected loss of more than $500,000 in tuition and fees. The college has campuses in Saranac Lake, Malone and Ticonderoga.
"We've done budget reduction this year," Tyrell told the college's Board of Trustees. "We're going to have to do more budget reduction next year. But we've also started having a conversation about looking at the non-traditional-age students that are attending North Country Community College. Is there a greater number of those individuals that might be interested in us and, if so, what would we do to support them if they were here?"
Citing statistics Tyrell said he was told by another community college president, 30 percent of the population of adults 25 years old or older in the North Country have an associate degree or higher. That means 70 percent of those same adults don't have a degree.
"We have work force requests and we really can't find people to apply for jobs, and we have a non-traditional-age population that may be looking for a continuing education class, certificate program, an associate degree program to retrain into something where they can find gainful employment here," Tyrell said.
The college has many non-traditional students in its existing programs, including its applied health, criminal justice and human services programs.
"They are here, but we may be able to bring in more if we think about what are we doing to support them if they were to come to the college," Tyrell said. "That will be important for us to look at as a market that we haven't tapped into."
Tyrell said he wants to involve the college board, senate and administration in a conversation about this idea, as well as the college's existing non-traditional students "who might have an opinion about what they're looking for or what we could do better."
The college's enrollment is expected to drop by 12 percent, from just over 1,300 students last year to 1,150 in the 2014-15 school year.
Despite that downward trend, Victoria Dutcher, the college's interim vice president for enrollment management, reported Tuesday that she's seen a "continued upward trend in applications" and deposits from new students compared to last year.
"We're encouraged with the trend of how things are going," Dutcher said. "We are getting more applications every day. Applications are up across all three campuses."
A total of 284 students have RSVPd, on all three campuses, for new student registration days, which begin Monday. Last year, 330 students attended. The college's goal this year is to get 350 students registered next week.
Marketing efforts are ongoing to attract new students, but Dutcher noted that the college is approaching the end of its fiscal year, "so we need to be as strategic as possible with whatever we're spending on advertising."