JCC, SUNY Fredonia Need To Face Realities Behind Enrollment Declines

Both Jamestown Community College and the State University at Fredonia are struggling to boost enrollment.

Since the 2011-12 academic year, JCC’s full-time equivalent student enrollment has gone from 3,889 to about 2,100 at present. College officials hoping workforce development opportunities, grabbing more of the market share when it comes to students seeking higher education and attracting more international students will bring enrollment back.

Enrollment at SUNY Fredonia was 3,600 students in the spring 2022 semester, down about 1,000 from the university’s all-time high. The SUNY Fredonia College Council heard some unenviable options for the future at its April meeting, including taking out a loan from the state if the university runs a deficit it can’t cover with its fund balance or COVID-19 relief funding.

While it’s easy to blame the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment slides at both institutions have been the norm long before the pandemic. It’s time for the boards to admit that enrollment is never going to return to the levels seen in the good old days. Making that admission changes the boards’ stances from trying to recapture past glories and prompts the question of how they can fulfill their educational missions and remain in business.

One place to start is asking this question — should there be two public SUNY colleges in Chautauqua County? Is it time to merge JCC into SUNY Fredonia and operate the Jamestown campus as an adjunct facility of SUNY Fredonia? Or is it time to share leadership teams between the two institutions in a cost-saving measure?

Chautauqua County’s population is decreasing. There are fewer college students graduating from area high schools and ever-increasing competition for those students. SUNY Fredonia and JCC have a role to play, but it’s never going to be as big a role as it was when Chautauqua County was booming. Discussions about the futures of both institutions need to face that reality.


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