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ECC enrollment slide worse than expected

Erie Community College administrators figured enrollment would be down again this fall semester, but the slide is slightly worse than they anticipated.

As of this week, the college counted 10,805 students on its three campuses, which is down about 6.5 percent from last fall at the same time. College officials had budgeted for 10,994 students.

“It’s going to change a little more. We may pick up more in head count,” said William D. Reuter, chief financial officer for the college.

It’s the fifth straight year of enrollment declines at the college, which relies on student tuition for the bulk of its revenue and has had to raise tuition and dip into reserves in recent years to balance its budgets. Based on the economy and demographics, college officials predict enrollment will continue to go down until leveling off in 2019-20.

The trends prompted administrators to slash more than 200 course sections this fall, with another 10 percent in cuts planned for the spring semester. The college also is in the midst of its second early retirement incentive program in the past year. The buyouts were offered this summer and eligible employees will have to decide in a few weeks whether to leave. College officials anticipate about 20 faculty and staff will take the offer and be off the payroll by Dec. 31.

ECC’s enrollment woes are shared by most of the 30 community colleges across the state, said ECC President Jack F. Quinn Jr., who recently met with other State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and other community college presidents. All of the presidents at the meeting reported enrollment declines, some as much as 13 percent, Quinn told ECC trustees at a board meeting this week.

ECC didn’t see any enrollment bump this fall from the sudden shut down of ITT Technical Institute, which had a campus in Getzville.

ECC offered to help ITT students looking to continue their education at one of its campuses. Just one former ITT students enrolled at ECC for the fall semester, which already was two weeks in when ITT shut down. Nineteen former ITT students are in the process of applying to ECC for spring 2017 coursework, said Reuter.

Also at the board meeting, Quinn said that a memorandum of understanding between ECC and SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany that was signed in 2014 has expired and won’t be extended.

“We’re going to leave it as it is and not do anything with it,” Quinn said.

SUNY Polytechnic President Alain E. Kaloyeros was among nine people recently charged in a public corruption scandal centered around allegations of bid-rigging for the development of the SolarCity RiverBend facility in Buffalo. Quinn said the college signed the MOU in preparation for any workforce training for SolarCity employees that ECC might be involved with.

“It didn’t ask anybody to commit to much of anything, except to say we were trying to be prepared with the Solar City and the nanotechnology issue, that if we needed to cooperate and partner and collaborate, we would. After all we’re part of SUNY anyway,” said Quinn.


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