GLENS FALLS SUNY Adirondack is looking to expand its Early College High School program, with officials eyeing more courses in business and information systems.
President Kristine Duffy said fewer high schools are offering courses in business, which is the No. 1 college degree program in the nation. The college also has found it difficult to find people when it has posted jobs for information technology programmers.
“Students aren’t really being exposed in high school to an IT career path,” she said Wednesday during a meeting with The Post-Star editorial board.
The college began its Early College High School program in advanced manufacturing in the fall of 2013, then added Cisco networking in the fall of 2014. The college is planning a new media program for this fall, which she said is already getting a tremendous response.
In these programs, students can accumulate up to 30 credits and earn industry certifications by taking courses at the college while still in high school. That translates to about one year of college completed.
“We’re seeing more and more students choosing us to finish out that associate’s degree. We see this as a continual growth area for us,” Duffy said.
The program can help SUNY Adirondack counter a recent decline in enrollment. Spring 2016 enrollment is projected at 3,476 full- and part-time students, a drop of close to 15 percent from the fall enrollment of nearly 4,000 students. The numbers could still fluctuate by about 1 percent in either direction as the college is adding enrollments from high school programs, according to Robert Palmieri, dean of enrollment management and marketing.
Duffy said spring enrollment is typically lower, as some students do not return after the fall.
Enrollment is returning to the levels that existed before The Great Recession, according to Duffy. Enrollment spiked from about 2009 to 2013, when the federal government was offering funding to retrain workers. As that money dwindled, so did enrollment.
Other colleges experienced the dip sooner, Duffy said, but SUNY Adirondack kept growing after it expanded its Wilton campus and built an on-campus dorm.
The college has experienced its most significant decline in students ages 20 to 29, Duffy said. Some students of that age are leaving community college now because they have been able to find decent-paying work.
The number of students of high school age in the area has been declining for years, Duffy said, but nevertheless, SUNY Adirondack has seen a rise in new students.
“Bringing more students from out of the area has helped us,” she said.
She expressed concern about comments in the community, blaming downstate students for drugs and other problems in student housing.
“The data doesn’t support that,” she said.
SUNY Adirondack is no different from other colleges with housing, she said: “When you have 400 bodies together that are 18 years old, some of them make bad decisions.”
The college has nine peace officers and the public safety office stationed right in the residence hall. But there is only so much the college can do, Duffy added.
“We’re not a police state. We’re not going room to room every night doing bed checks. In many cases, we’re able to educate a student out of further problems,” she said.
SUNY Adirondack has become a more diverse campus because of the residence hall. About 34 percent of the students in the dormitory are people of color, compared to 9 percent for the college as a whole, according to Duffy.
The college also has partnered with five local districts to allow high-schoolers to take the placement tests that colleges require to assess their skills in math and English. College officials hope assessing the students early will allow high schools to address their needs and result in smaller remedial classes at SUNY Adirondack.
Duffy also wants to continue working with local employers. In the past three years, the college has partnered with more than 300 businesses in the region, establishing internships and bringing in employers to advise on curriculum. The college recently added a career connections coordinator who is responsible for connecting students with businesses.
SUNY Adirondack offers short-term training for people who want to head right into the work force, including a partnership with Schenectady County Community College to offer certification courses as home health aides or nursing assistants.
The college is working on an agriculture management degree that teaches the business aspect of farming and the food system. Approval of the program is currently held up at the state Education Department, according to Duffy.
Duffy said she is looking to find more ways to bring education programs into Washington County. This spring, the college is taking over a continuing education course on writing business plans that had been offered by the county economic development office. The college will offer the course this spring and use video-conferencing technology to bring it to Hartford and Salem.
The college is looking to boost its three-year graduation rate, which stands at about 25 percent. It recently received $1.8 million from the SUNY Investment Fund to improve advising and offer support services to help students with math.
“We know that math is a course that will make or break a student’s ability to complete a degree,” she said.
SUNY Adirondack soon will be updating its goals as it is in the final year of its three-year strategic plan. Duffy is optimistic about the future of the college.
“I feel proud that we’re really trying to create a community of people that work with each other. Being able to create an environment of trust and honesty is important,” she said.