SUNY chancellor visits NCCC to discuss priorities, shifting enrollment

From left, North Country Community College President Steve Tyrell, NCCC mascot Bernie the St. Bernard, SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson, state Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) and state Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) meet at NCCC as part of the SUNY Chancellor’s tour of the SUNY system on Thursday. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — State lawmakers and the SUNY chancellor met at North Country Community College Thursday to discuss college priorities and get feedback from students, faculty and administration.

Chancellor Kristina Johnson started her tour of all 64 state higher education institutions in September 2017. NCCC was 58th on that tour. She said she expects to complete the circuit by July 1, then start circling back again.

“One of the reasons why I come here is to have a chance to meet with the campuses,” Johnson said. “I can take back to scale to influence the rest of the system, because that is the beautiful thing about SUNY — we are a system.”

One of those programs she said she was interested in — NCCC’s new adult learning program — offers seven-and-a-half week courses, targeting non-traditional students.

“It helps our adult learners get an associate’s degree much quicker,” said NCCC President Steve Tyrell. “They can do it right in their backyard.”

With fewer students graduating from high school, as the population is down some, colleges have to look elsewhere for enrollment, said state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury.

“So what they’re doing here at North Country and other community colleges as well, is really trying to help those non-traditional students come back and get courses but also working in the high schools.”

In the high schools, as important as it is to help students get a head start on their college credits, it’s also important that community colleges reach out to the other kids that don’t necessarily see themselves as college bound, Little said.

“It gives some kids who have no idea that they’re college material to take a college course and find out, ‘Wow, I can do that,'” Little said. “So, the very, very important part of our community — is to have a community college.”

There are careers and job opportunities specific to the North Country, such as environmental preservation, that NCCC is most geared to help students move toward, Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, said.

“Workforce job training. Workforce development training,” Jones said. “I think North Country and the community colleges are taking a huge step in helping our students get placed into those jobs and those careers that they will benefit from.”