STERLING — With enrollment down, Northeastern Junior College is looking at adding another academic program to help attract more students. At an Advisory Council meeting on Thursday, council members were asked for their opinion on what new program the college should offer.
According to NJC President Jay Lee, enrollment was down six full-time equivalent (FTE) students in the summer and for fall 2012 it’s down 84.3 FTE students compared to last year at this time — an 11.8 percent drop.
For the spring 2013 semester, as of Monday NJC was down 88.1 FTE students compared to last year at this time. There are currently 389.7 FTE students registered.
“We’ve got a ways to go yet in the spring, but we also have a lot of registration still to happen,” Lee said.
He’s hopeful, based on past years, that between now and the start of the spring semester on Jan. 23, they will get about 200 more students enrolled.
Overall, NJC is long way from the 1,410 FTE students they built this year’s budget on. At this point, Lee said there looking at a 12 percent decline in enrollment, as opposed to the 4 percent decline they had expected.
“That’s a pretty significant impact in terms of the tuition revenue that we would be generating,” Lee said. “That’s why we’ve been having the conversations about new programs and new things or different things we could be doing to increase enrollment.”
In addition to new academic programs, NJC has been talking about adding women’s soccer to their athletic programs.
Lee explained that Stanton Gartin, vice president of academic services, in preparing the budget and working with the Perkins Fund, set aside funds with the idea of identifying a new or offshoot program, that will allow the college to bring in a new student body base.
The money would be available for them to put the infrastructure of the program in place in spring 2013 and actually start the program in fall 2013.
During the Advisory Council’s discussion, council member Carol Klein asked about the oil lease activity going on in this area and if companies coming in would be interested in partnering with NJC to develop a program.
Council member Rich O’Connell, former executive director of Logan County Economic Development Corporation, said there are a lot of oil facility companies hiring people to fill higher skilled positions.
He mentioned Frontier Energy Group, LLC. Lee said he met with the company and there wasn’t anything specific the company was looking for in terms of a program.
Bob Carpio asked about ethanol companies.
“We’re just not hearing anything that they need from an educational standpoint, at least at this point in time,” Lee said. “It certainly warrants further investigation, I think, on our part. It’s a little bit like Frontier in terms of, we know they’re there, but we’re not hearing from them and we’re not getting any indication that they need anything from an educational program perspective.”
He said he’s talked with O’Connell about an industrial maintenance program.
“We sense that there’s an interest and a need out there,” Lee said.
O’Connell suggested the college work with the governor’s office and the state. He pointed out that the state has identified 15 industry clusters, including manufacturing, and is actively recruiting industries that fall into those groups.
E-journalism was another topic that came up. Andy Long, dean of enrollment and student transition, said a social media journalism program could be an option considering the rise in professional bloggers, people that do Podcasts and so on.
Council member David Foy suggested looking at something related to healthcare.
“It’s exploding all over the place,” he said of the industry.
Foy pointed to the requirement that all medical records need to be electronic by 2014 and the need for people to do coding for that.
Mertens asked about a program teaching students how to start their own small business.
Foy noted NJC already has that to a degree with the Back to College program, which was offered again this year. El Pomar granted NJC another round of funding that is allowing 19 people to take a two-credit hour small business management course this semester. Those students will then create a business plan and be judged on them in January.
“I think that one could grow,” said Cyndi Vandenbark, who is in charge of the program.
NJC also offers an entrepreneurship emphasis as part of their business program.
Other topics that came up included a barbering program, a small engine repair program and another renewable energy program, in addition to the wind technician program.
Mertens suggested that in addition to new programs, the college should be looking at other ways to attract new students, such as having current students encourage friends and people they know to enroll at NJC.
Lee said they do see that with athletic students.
He made it clear that before NJC starts any program, they will do extensive research on student demand, employment demand, wages, gainful employment and so on.
Lee said some of the programs they’ve looked at aren’t options because there isn’t necessarily gainful employment for people that may go through them. Also, some programs, such as veterinary technician or dental hygiene, would be very expensive to start.
Callie Jones: (970) 526-9286; email@example.com. Follow @CJones _JA on Twitter.