With fewer high school graduates from Chautauqua County, Jamestown Community College has to look outside the county for new students.
Sometimes, far outside the county.
Hye Won Lim, who goes by the name "Rosie" on campus, is an international student from Seoul, South Korea. Rosie said the low tuition fee and JCC's timely response to her application contributed to her decision to come to Jamestown.
Jamestown Community College students are pictured on campus early during a fall semester.
"I chose community college because of the small size," said Rosie. "I felt like I would get more attention from the teachers by studying in a small class. And paying the international student fee was a lot, so I decided to go to a community college. I applied to five other community colleges, but Victoria (Peterson, international outreach coordinator) replied really quickly, so I felt better. I didn't know where to go and I had to look up (Jamestown's location) on Google, but I like it."
Since the 2008 fall semester, JCC has seen its full-time enrollments increase from 1,376 full-time equivalent students to 1,667 full-time equivalent students in the fall of 2010. That increase comes at the same time as the county's population of college-age students is decreasing.
A report from the state Education Department notes the projected decline in the number of high school graduates between 2008 and 2019 will range from a loss of 28 percent in Cattaraugus County to 21.3 percent in Chautauqua County and 12.4 percent in Allegany County.
Nelson Garifi, JCC executive director of marketing and academic initiatives, said the numbers have forced JCC to re-evaluate and more aggressively recruit out-of-area students.
"While JCC has enjoyed healthy enrollments in recent years, we are well aware that high school enrollments across western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania are declining, as they are throughout the northeastern United States," said Garifi. "By creating residence halls in Jamestown and broadening our outreach strategies, we are positioning JCC to attract a greater number of students from outside the area, including additional international students. This fall we have 130 out-of-area students as compared to 80 last fall."
Over the years, JCC has employed its fair share of incentives that would make it appealing to a freshly graduated high school student. A contributing factor in the choice to attend JCC is the college's cost. For full-time students who also happen to be New York state residents, one semester in tuition will cost $2,025, making it possible to achieve an associate degree for under $10,000. Another incentive is the Unified Student Assistance scholarship, which allows students graduating in the top 20 percent of their high school class to attend JCC tuition free.
The college has also been making several updates and new additions to its campus, the most recent being the Science Center building that opened in 2011, while also forming new transfer articulation agreements with four-year schools. Three new residence halls that have been built since 2008 can be seen from Curtis Street dominating the landscape.
Garifi said the incentives have been helpful in establishing JCC's reputation in the high schools.
"This fall we have 257 Unified Student Assistance scholars, which is the highest number in decades," said Garifi. "Those USA scholars are sought after by many colleges and universities, but recognize the high quality, university-parallel education they receive here while saving significantly. Maintaining high standards of quality in instruction, updating facilities such as our new Science Center, and strengthening the overall JCC experience are essential elements in maintaining robust enrollments. By updating transfer articulation agreements and creating new agreements, we can provide transfer-bound students the opportunity to enroll here with confidence, knowing that a JCC education will connect them to their goals while saving them thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars."
Despite these changes and aforementioned incentives, some out-of-area students cite more personal reasons for attending JCC.
Nathan Decker is from Cuba, N.Y., is a residential adviser in his dorm building. Decker said the sports program, specifically soccer, is what drew him to JCC.
"I played soccer in high school and I was thinking about playing soccer in college when I moved on," said Decker. "I wanted to go to a smaller school at first, just to get used to the college experience, and I knew community colleges were a good idea in getting used to the whole college setting. So I talked to the coach from here and got on his recruiting list and then I ended up coming to playing soccer. Soccer was the big reason I came here."