JCC Looking At Options As Student Enrollment Declines

Jamestown Community College is down in enrollment from 2017 for the fall semester with 94 less student from all active students and 54 less full time equivalent students. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Jamestown Community College’s fall enrollment is down, but the college was not surprised as it anticipated the current decline. Now, the school is looking ahead at how it, as an institution, can counteract a decreasing regional population.

“It’s not something were taking sitting down,” said Kirk Young, JCC vice president of enrollment management and institutional advancement. “We’re constantly looking at anything new we can do.”

Young said the decline is present at community colleges and universities across the state.

In total, JCC observed 2,515 students enroll at the college for the fall semester, down 94 from the 2,609 students who enrolled the previous year. Of the 94-student decline, 54 of them were full-time equivalent students.

“We knew it was going to be dropping,” Young said. “That’s happening region wide. The population is getting smaller and smaller.”

Young said it would be difficult at this point to estimate how many students are anticipated for the upcoming spring semester. Last year at this time, JCC had 2,409 total students enrolled. Young said there is always a decline in enrollment from fall to spring. However, JCC is observing an increase in the amount of new students, or students who didn’t attend JCC in the fall, with 54 students, up from 40 students at this time last year.

While Young cannot accurately predict what the enrollment will look like for the spring semester, he said based on yearly trends, the spring and fall semesters tend to mirror each other in terms of any increases and decreases.

Though enrollment is declining, JCC is seeing an increase in online course enrollment. To supplement that shift, the college is looking at offering more courses online.

Later today at an Educational Services Committee meeting, comprised of board of trustees and other advisors, Young and his team are scheduled to give a report on JCC’s current enrollment and strategies to combat the decline. The committee requested the impending report.

“It’s always a topic that we cover (at meetings). I’m sure these numbers had something to do with the request,” Young said.

Last month, the JCC Foundation approved $200,000 to put toward marketing and recruitment.

Currently, JCC, in response to declining populations and subsequent enrollment, is looking to make the admission process simpler. Young said the college wants to eliminate as many steps to the JCC application as they can. He said an observable amount of potential students begin a JCC application and leave it incomplete. Despite efforts to reach out to those individuals, many of them never complete the application and therefore fail to attend JCC.

“(The number of students) varies so much from year to year, but it’s enough that it’s something we have to pay attention to,” Young said.

Also on top of what JCC already offers in terms of scholarships, the institution is starting to expand by offering scholarships that cover more than just tuition fees.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship Program — which Young said “hasn’t helped” JCC — approved almost two years ago, made it possible for middle- to low-income families to afford tuition at certain colleges and universities. However, the scholarship exclusively covers the cost of tuition.

Young said, not necessarily in response to Excelsior, the community college is realizing potential students are in need of much more than help paying for tuition.

“We’ve always been targeting tuition, but a number of our students are coming here with needs outside of tuition,” Young said.

An example of this effort is the the Workforce Readiness Scholarship. Tailored to students interested in manufacturing, the scholarship covers in-state tuition, fees, books and program supplies — unlike other scholarships that cannot be applied to non-tuition fees. Young said other scholarship programs are being considered for realignment so that it addresses non-tuition costs.

Already in operation are partnership programs with the State University of New York at Fredonia and St. Bonaventure University. These programs allow for students to seemingly attend JCC and the other institutions simultaneously. At Fredonia, students can live on campus while taking JCC courses in preparation for a later transfer. Essentially, the programs make transferring more effective for students who attend JCC for the first two years. The St. Bonaventure program decreases a student’s junior and senior year tuition by 50 percent if the individual chooses this program.

Recently, Fredonia announced it is considering cutting several programs. The announcement even sparked student and teacher protests. Young said if the neighboring college does in fact cut programs that JCC offers, those similar programs will receive increased promotion.

In addition to numerous changes, Young said the new president, Daniel DeMarte, has been pushing for reinforcing local partnerships with local employers, municipalities and school districts. With the declining population in the region, graduating classes from all local school districts have declined as well. In response, DeMarte has begun reaching out to those school districts to better understand what JCC can do to be a better partner. JCC will be holding parent teacher orientations to discuss financial aid and general college preparation in the coming months at local school districts.

The college is also “aggressively” marketing in Pennsylvania, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, New York City and other places outside of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

“I want to make sure it’s very apparent that we’re not taking this lying down,” Young reiterated. “We’re being very aggressive at looking at what we do (with marketing and recruitment).”