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For the first time in six years, spring-semester enrollment is up at Erie Community College, and one reason might be ECC's upcoming football program, the college's executive vice president for student services told the board of trustees Thursday.

"Enrollment for the spring 2001 semester has increased from 9,981 students at this time last year to 10,063 students today," Daniel Penfold said during the trustees' monthly meeting at ECC's City Campus.

"We know that over 100 students have identified themselves as individuals who would like to play football," Penfold noted of ECC's entry into the Northeast Football Conference starting Sept. 8.

"We know of 68 more students coming for that reason in the fall. We feel the program is already a draw, and the college has a 97 percent retention rate of its other student athletes."

The City Campus posted the largest spring-semester increase in enrollment, with 2,335 students this semester compared with 2,176 last year, Penfold said.

ECC also has an increase in full-time-equivalent students, to 3,865 from 3,829 at this time last year, according to Penfold.

Penfold said the overall spring-semester increase also reflects other recent efforts.

"Our technology upgrade, marketing efforts and partnerships with local corporations, high schools and other colleges are all ways in which we are aggressively trying to reposition ourselves and capture the market we lost," he said.

Six years ago, ECC spring enrollment was 13,345. It then declined to 12,346 in 1996, 11,661 in 1997, 11,174 in 1998, 10,040 in 1999 and 9,981 last year.

In other business, ECC President William J. Mariani reminded the board that the college formally was announcing its $3.3 million, three-year technology upgrade at a news conference this morning in the City Campus.

County Executive Joel A. Giambra will help Mariani, ECC students and others unload new computers for use by students.

The county recently approved a transfer of $2.8 million to the college for its technology plan. ECC already had $515,000 for technology from the State University of New York and IBM.

Funds from the county, chiefly interest earnings from its tobacco settlement assets, will be used to buy equipment for student computer laboratories and the college's computer infrastructure. Almost 1,200 new computers already have been installed.

Mariani said he believes the county's $2.8 million grant "may be the college's greatest infusion of capital ever."

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