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Erie Community College, after four years of declining enrollment, is finally righting its ship, the institution's executive vice president for student services reports.

"We had a surge during add-drop," Daniel Penfold said of the brief time at the beginning of each semester when students may add or drop courses.

ECC, which held its add-drop period late this fall because of computer system problems, now has an enrollment of 10,152 students.

The number is 1.8 percent below last year's fall head count of 10,337 -- but it does not include the 200 Erie County Medical Center employees expected to enroll in late-start ECC courses at the hospital, and more than 250 high school students slated to take advanced study courses this semester.

"When the ECMC and high school students are enrolled, we expect to push beyond last year's numbers," Penfold noted.

The numbers, which reflect a hike in enrollment of almost 100 students at ECC's City Campus, are significant, given competition with other local colleges and a decrease in county population, Penfold added.

They are also on target in terms of ECC's projections for the 2000-2001 academic year.

"Our budgeted goal for the year is 8,700 full-time-equivalent students -- 3,900 for the fall semester," Penfold said. "We are currently at 3,905."

ECC and other institutions receive reimbursement funds from the state based on credit hours taken by students, with each 15 credit hours equal to one full-time-equivalent student.

The college hopes to see enrollment increase in the future, Penfold noted.

"We are trying to stabilize right now," he said. "Before we grow, we have to stabilize."

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