Student enrollment continues decline at JCC
JAMESTOWN — For the better part of a decade, enrollment at SUNY Jamestown Community College like many institutions has steadily declined. Since the 2011-12 academic year, full-time equivalent student enrollment has gone from 3,889 to about 2,100 at present.
College officials are now targeting efforts to bring enrollment numbers back to levels seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Strategies, outlined in the 2022-23 budget approved by the JCC board of trustees last month and further shared with The Post-Journal, include highlighting workforce development opportunities, grabbing more of the market share when it comes to students seeking higher education and attracting more international students.
“The biggest obstacle is getting our enrollment back up to the pre-pandemic amount,” Mike Martello, JCC vice president of administration, said in an interview Wednesday.
To balance the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, JCC plans to use federal stimulus funds and a portion of its fund balance to help offset lost revenue. Martello said while using the fund balance — in the amount of $2.9 million in 2022-23 — is not sustainable for the college, he noted that some of the stimulus money will be put toward initiatives to increase student enrollment.
“I think what’s important is we look at our strategies the next few years that will allow us to grow our enrollment,” Martello said. “I think that’s the key is taking a look at developing strategies to be able to bring that back to pre-pandemic level. … Most recently, we’re seeing a trend this year that’s encouraging.”
A year before the pandemic, which forced students from kindergarten to colleges and universities to learn from home, there was the full-time equivalent of 2,700 students. JCC is looking to get back to that number as part of an effort to “right size the college” as stated in the budget plan.
For the upcoming fiscal year, the college is budgeting for 2,100 full-time equivalent students and for 250 beds in its residency halls to be occupied. Martello said JCC would like to see 300 beds filled, the occupancy seen prior to the pandemic.
Declining enrollment at JCC mirrors the city’s shrinking population, of which the college draws many of its students. As such, Martello said the college must attract as many available students and those interested in programs offered at JCC.
“Part of our effort is to get a bigger piece of the pie,” said Martello, who noted that retaining students is just as important as recruiting them. He said attracting international students, and students interested in playing sports, also may help boost enrollment numbers.
The $33,378,210 budget approved last month is about $603,000 higher than the current budget. In the upcoming year, JCC will have about $1.4 million available from stimulus money it received from the federal government. Of that funding, $400,000 has to be used for “mental health efforts for students.”
Martello said the 2022-23 budget does not call for any staff layoffs, as seen at other community colleges. He said current open positions will be filled based on enrollment.
SMALL TUITION INCREASE
After not raising costs and fees last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, JCC will increase tuition by 1.9% — from $5,200 a year for a full-time, New York state resident to $5,300. For an out-of-state resident, the cost to attend JCC for a year increases to $10,600.
“JCC felt it was necessary to increase tuition and fees,” the budget plan outlines. “However, the college recognizes that students and their parents are still having financial difficulties due to the pandemic and kept this increase to only 1.9%.”