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JCC plans for more students, refocuses recruitment and marketing

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Although many community colleges are experiencing a decline in enrollment, Jefferson Community College has seen increased numbers over the past four years.

However, college officials don’t want to take chances. To combat the national trend, JCC Vice President for Students Betsy D. Penrose created the first enrollment plan in recent memory to make sure the number of students at the college continues to grow.

“We know that the high school market — the traditional market — is not growing at all,” Mrs. Penrose said. “We have to look at other strategies if we want to maintain and control our market.”

Those strategies focus on boosting online enrollment, attracting more adult learners, recruiting more students for low-capacity programs — such as fire protection technology and renewable energy management — and adding residence halls.

The college is poised to break ground on the new residence halls soon. They are scheduled to open in fall 2014.

The plan notes that State University of New York schools that added dormitories since 2000 saw average enrollment increases of more than 5 percent the first year of having the halls open, while those that did not had an average growth rate of 3 percent.

However, to get that growth, JCC will have to make sure prospective students know about the upcoming project.

“When a school did not advertise well the year prior, the residence halls did not do well,” Mrs. Penrose said. “We have to have a very deliberate presence on our website. We need to make sure we publicize it.”

She is working with the college’s marketing and recruitment team to make sure the dorms are brought up at college fairs and high school visits. She said there may be a live stream on the website to show prospective students the project’s construction.

“The advertising cost for the residence halls will be paid by the Faculty-Student Association, who own the residence halls, not by the college,” Mrs. Penrose said.

She stressed that no tuition money or local tax money will be used to pay for advertising.

“Based on looking at other schools, we expect to add about 150 students” who otherwise would not have been attracted to the college, she said.

Mrs. Penrose admits that space is tight in many classrooms. However, there are plans to add more classroom space when the collaborative learning center, a place where students can study or seek tutoring, is built. The center is a part of the college’s master plan.

“Overall, we’d like to see modest growth,” Mrs. Penrose said. “And online classes don’t take up additional seats.”

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