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ECC PRESIDENT SAYS ENROLLMENT IS STABILIZING AFTER SHARP DROP

Enrollment at Erie Community College, which plunged by more than 10 percent a year ago, seems to be leveling off, and ECC President William J. Mariani is crediting the college's enhanced efforts at recruiting and retaining students.

"We lost about 400 full-time-equivalent students from the 1998 spring semester to the 1999 spring semester (3,943 to 3,536)," he said. "This semester, we've only lost 40."

The number of individual students at the institution is also down minimally, by 13. A year ago, it had fallen by 16 percent, from 10,668 to 8,956. The latest numbers are based on the first day of this year's spring semester, which began Monday.

"This is telling me that the system we're putting into place here is starting to work," Mariani said. "We're getting more financial support from the County Legislature ($850,000 more over the past two years), and we've increased our visibility from a public-relations standpoint."

ECC and other institutions receive reimbursement from the state based on credit hours taken by students, with each 15 credit hours equal to one full-time-equivalent student. This makes the full-time-equivalent number at an institution more relevant than the head count.

Since both numbers plummeted a year ago, ECC projected a smaller enrollment for the 1999-2000 academic year.

Mariani also cited increased commitment by ECC in helping local businesses train workers. A $19,910 Empire State Development Corp. grant will assist 67 Peerless Winsmith employees in shop math and blueprint reading, he noted.

A $100,000 grant to train more than 50 Rich Products workers and a $9,000 grant to assist 10 East Coast Tool employees are awaiting final approval.

In addition, ECC's advanced-studies programs for high school students are now available in seven local school districts, Mariani said.

ECC's half-tuition initiative at the Connecticut Street Armory, for soldiers of the New York Army National Guard and their families as well as residents of the surrounding community, is growing.

Partnerships with industry are growing, too, Mariani said. The college is also creating new, business-specific certificate programs to meet the needs of industry, he added.

"Our aim is to become the major provider of work force development in the area," he said.

"A lot of organizations are talking to us about cooperative arrangements for our students by which a student would work for a company and be paid while going to school."

In its monthly meeting Wednesday, ECC's board of trustees endorsed the 2000-01 budget request to the State University of New York trustees that calls for an increase in state support per full-time-equivalent student, from $2,125 to $2,275.

Gov. George E. Pataki's proposed budget does not include any increase in student support.

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