Nassau Community College Summer Courses 2023 – Nassau Community College in Garden City has seen enrollment decline sharply over the past decade. Credit: Howard Schnapp
New leaders at Long Island’s community colleges are developing strategies to turn around declining enrollment and attract more students by freezing tuition and reaching out to non-traditional learners.
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The challenges are steep: They include strained budgets, a declining high school-age population on Long Island and dramatic changes in how students receive instruction that, fueled by the pandemic, seems here to stay.
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Both Nassau and Suffolk Community Colleges are approaching hurdles with new leadership. In May, Nassau Community College named Maria Conzatti interim president, while Suffolk County Community College President Edward Bonahue took over last June.
“With declining high school enrollment, we know Suffolk’s future lies in attracting non-traditional students,” Bonahue said. “This is our path to future growth.”
US According to census estimates, the number of Long Islanders aged 15-19 declined by 9.2% from 2010 to 2020.
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At NCC, Conzatti talked about recognizing the changing ways students receive and adapt to instruction. “It’s about flexibility, allowing students to take up programming when they want and how they want,” he said.
Community colleges have traditionally attracted a diverse student body and served as a gateway to higher education for low-income students.
The teaching is suspended in both schools, the third in Suffolk and the second in Nassau. Resident full-time tuition per semester at SCCC is $2,735 plus fees. At NCC, it’s $2,900 plus fees.
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But the enrollment fell. At SCCC from fall 2011 to fall 2021, it fell 23% from 26,789 to 20,570. At NCC during the period, there was a 46% drop from 23,550 to 12,631.
Institutions are not alone in experiencing enrollment loss. Statewide, SUNY community colleges saw a 34% drop in enrollment from 2011 to 2021, according to Mark Harris, vice president of financial affairs at SCCC.
SUNY’s four-year school enrollment in the state is down, but less: about 5% over the same decade, according to SUNY data.
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When the state budget approved this spring increased funding for scholarship aid and recruiting at public universities and colleges, advocates were disappointed that it did not do more for college affordability.
In addition, county funding has stagnated in Nassau, according to its trustees, while in Suffolk, the county increased its contribution to SCCC by 3% in the last academic year.
With new leaders in charge, assessments are underway on how to retain students and attract new ones; Who and what will be taught in the future; And how the learning takes place.
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Bonahue comes to Long Island after several decades of community college experience as a professor and administrator in Florida. A native of Long Island, he has a PhD in English literature.
Recruiting is a top priority for SCCC’s three campuses in Brentwood, Selden and Riverhead. SCCC is SUNY’s largest community college and has a budget of $212.2 million for the upcoming school year, a 13% increase. Operating budgets are funded by student tuition and county and state funds, as well as some federal aid.
Adult students with work or family responsibilities, a growing immigrant population and job seekers have always been part of community college missions, but now they find remote coursework — necessary during a pandemic — an attraction.
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“We know that we can best serve students when they are on campus, but we also know that online education is here to stay for the long haul,” Bonahue said. “Many of our students need that flexibility.”
Bonahue asked the college’s Distance Education Committee to come up with new guidelines for evaluating online courses. However, some faculty members express dissatisfaction with the diminishing role of individualized learning, especially for the most academically disadvantaged students.
“We’re in the thick of it,” said Cynthia Eaton, an English professor and longtime member of a committee that works to assess online courses. “It was only 10 percent of the courses [online], and now we have even more courses and Faculty that need support. It’s a heavy lift.”
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New federal regulations now require college administrations to demonstrate that all faculty consistently and reliably engage with online students, he said. “If we have a professor who wants to teach a class by himself, if the faculty member is not doing the right thing, now we can point to the federal regulations and say, ‘You have to do this.'”
International student Jasmine Martins Abade, the commencement speaker, who graduated with just a 4.0 GPA, thrived despite pandemic-like distance learning.
She returned to Germany when the campuses closed in the spring of 2020, and while it wasn’t easy with the six-hour time difference, she made the most of her opportunities: “The honor society, the peer mentor, the foreign Language tutor. … Student leadership and teamwork were more important than what I experienced in Germany,” she said.
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Dante Morelli, president of the faculty association, said online classrooms should have clear expectations for what students want.
The readiness test is offered on the SCC website, said communication professor and department chair Virginia Horan, “This is especially important after Covid, because what they experienced as remote learning in high school is different from online courses at the college level.”
He said, “It’s imperative that we get the word out that students need to come back to campus. Community college students often benefit from the structure and contact that face-to-face classes provide, and we’re here, ready to learn.
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Michael J. of SCCC in Brentwood. Mark Felenz, a philosophy professor at the Grant campus, said his in-person classes were half full that session “as many students are choosing to continue learning online … even though students may not find the online experience overwhelmingly effective or rewarding.”
He said, “We are still seeing the ripple effects of students who have fallen behind or used up their financial aid, or students who have not recovered the focus or attention they need for higher education due to the stress of the pandemic. Study.”
Hunter Dillon, 19, a freshman communications major from Shoreham, said that while some of his classmates found it easier to study online, he did not, despite getting good grades on their prerequisites.
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But the “great experiment” in online education is here to stay, said Tom Brock, president of the Center for Community College Research at Columbia University’s Teachers College, citing improvements in the past two years and ongoing research to update it.
“Some of the arguments are completely valid, but the truth is that we will not return to an environment where we can expect all students to come back to campus, if we do, we will continue to lose students.
The county budgeted for a 3% increase last year and 2.5% this year, he said, adding that “the decrease in enrollment [and tuition revenue] always outweighs the increase we get.” “The problem is state funding: last year they gave us 98% of what they gave us the year before, and this year’s upcoming budget, fiscal year 2023, is the same as last year, no decrease but no increase.”
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The college plans to focus resources on student services and supports such as tutoring and advising to “prevent a slide in retention and enrollment,” said Harris, adding that to save money, campuses will cut back on outdated equipment and faculty. Mostly through erosion.
Conzatti, a longtime administrator at NCC, was recently named interim president following the departure of former president Jermaine Williams, who abruptly left for the presidency at Maryland Community College. His leadership during the pandemic has been criticized by faculty.
According to Cathy Weiss, vice president of the NCC Board of Trustees, the search process is in its early stages with the goal of installing a new president by July 2023.
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Garden City-based NCC, like SCCC, is one of hundreds of community colleges adopting reforms to improve student retention by creating clear pathways to degrees and certificates. Both participate in SUNY’s Guided Pathways Project, which aims to help students find and stay on track toward academic and career goals while reducing wasted credits.
He pointed to the potential to “tap into the adult population and workforce training” with step- or micro-credentials that allow students to take three to five courses for a certificate that can be applied to an associate’s degree and offer an intermediate credential.
Brock, of the Community College Research Center, said there are ways to improve the quality of education.
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“We put so many students in courses that they don’t see where it leads,” he said, adding that many take years to get a two-year degree. “Find out what they’re interested in and help light their fire.”
Nassau astronomy professor Thomas Bruckner said, however, that many young students still don’t know what they want. “A student took eight years to graduate, took one class a semester, then got a great job with a planetarium with a 4.0 GPA,” he said. “They say she wasn’t successful but she definitely was.”
Tzivia Miller, 27, of Hewlett, graduated as NCC’s 2022 valedictorian with a nursing degree and a job at a hospital after attending part-time for just five years.
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But the NCC, like the SCCC, is operating under budget constraints because enrollment and public funding have failed to keep up with inflation, forcing choices between