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SUNY Adirondack President Kristine Duffy

SUNY Adirondack President Kristine Duffy speaks about the college's priorities during a meeting Thursday with The Post-Star editorial board.

GLENS FALLS — SUNY Adirondack is considering new programs, including a partnership with the local steamfitters union, to attract more students.

Kristine Duffy, president of the college, said a program with the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 773 is being considered that would give students 30 credits for their union apprenticeship then add courses to complete an associate’s degree in another year. The program would be designed to teach business skills and prepare students for a management position or for opening their own business.

“You end up opening your own business at some point, so giving them the skill base to be more adept at that,” she said in a meeting on Thursday with The Post-Star editorial board.

The program, titled journeyman-building trades supervision, is still int he early stages and must go through the college’s internal review process.

The college is also looking at so-called microcredentials that certify the master of specific skills for people who may not need a full degree, but can use coursework that meets an industry-recognized standard.

“We want to be able to provide those professional skills on a shorter-term basis,” she said.

College officials hope these new programs will address the enrollment decline. Total enrollment dropped by nearly 7% this fall, down from 3,728 last year to about 3,647 now, which includes part-time and high school students. In addition, Duffy said occupancy in the residence hall is about 380 students, which is under its 400-student capacity.

“We had 22 students who just didn’t show up that we were expecting,” she said. “They didn’t have their financial aid in place.”

College officials attribute the decrease to a declining high school population and a strong economy with full employment. When unemployment is higher, more people return to school to learn new skills.

The college is continuing to add programs to attract students. Over the last couple of years, the college has started 10 new programs aligned with local industry. Agricultural business, one of those programs, has increased its enrollment from six students in its first year in 2018 to 20 this fall, according to Duffy.

“We have some students that would have mainly normally gone to (SUNY) Cobleskill for their first couple of years. Now they can stay home, save some money, work on their family farm and then transfer,” she said.

While SUNY Adirondack traditionally has been thought of as a place where students go for two years and then transfer, Duffy said the college is offering offer more short-term classes aimed at people in the workforce, as well as noncredit offerings.

The college has an online medical coding and billing program that leads to industry certification, she said. It may also expand programs that train personal care assistants and home health care aides.

“We know there’s a huge demand for people,” she said.

The state does not offer funding for noncredit courses, however, which makes them expensive to run and limits how many the college can create. The college has received grants to create some non-credit programs, but they are set to expire.

The college is having success with its mechatronics program. The curriculum built upon the traditional electrical technology degree, with mechanical engineering and robotics added, designed for the person who aims to be a “utility player” in the technology field, she said.

The college always has had arts classes and physical education programs, but now they have been packaged into degree programs, Duffy said.

Duffy added that the college has several initiatives they are working this year to recruit new groups of students, but did not want to announce them yet.

SUNY Adirondack’s Early College High School started with 12 students in 2013 and has grown to 160 students in four programs — advanced manufacturing, business and entrepreneurship, information technology/computer networking and new media.

The program allows students to spend half of their day taking classes at SUNY Adirondack and earning college credit. Duffy said the college initially hoped this program would a pipeline, leading to enrollment in the college.

“For a while, we were seeing students that were coming to our program and then directly moving to four-year schools,” she said. “We’re starting to capture that population. They’re coming to us for one more year and completing an associate’s degree.”

The college is also focusing on the needs of its most vulnerable students, she said. The college received a grant to begin an educational opportunity program, which provides financial assistance and academic support to the neediest students. The college also started a food pantry and a “hub” that offers assistance to students in a financial bind.

Despite the emphasis on career skills, that the liberal arts aren’t going away, she said. Employers want well-rounded graduates, she said.

“They want quality, critical thinkers, problem solvers, communicators,” she said.

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Michael Goot covers politics, business, Glens Falls and Lake George. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog at http://poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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