SARANAC LAKE — North Country Community College is projecting a $330,000 deficit for this year, according to Vice President for Administration & Fiscal Operations Robert Farmer. He said part of the problem is that there is not enough revenue coming in to meet the expenses.
At a Board of Trustees meeting Friday in Saranac Lake, Farmer said college officials are hoping to get those numbers down into the $200,000 range. He noted that, over the past five years, the college’s fund balance has consistently been declining — that, combined with having nothing in reserves, has been a challenge, he said.
Slow return on investments is also part of the problem. NCCC has about $1 million tied up with investments and is getting a 3 percent return, because most of it is in bank certificates of deposit.
“In a span of five years, our fund balance has gone down. If I had known what I know now, I might have done things a little different, in hindsight,” said Farmer.
The financial shortfall comes as enrollment fell below expectations for the current semester. This past fall, student numbers came in about 1.2 percent below fall 2018 figures and below enrollment projections bolstered by an uptick in applications.
The picture looks somewhat brighter for the second half of the academic year.
Last year, 508 students were enrolled for the spring semester; this year the number is up to 577. Vice President for Marketing & Enrollment Johnston Kyle said the college is trying to make the enrollment processes easier and smoother for students and has created something called “Express Enrollment,” in which students could enroll in classes at NCCC in as little as a half a day. He says they are also working on additional marketing to attract additional students.
“At a bare minimum, there will be more visits to high schools, testimonials from past and current students, program videos and a little bit better social media presence,” said Johnson.
The college has also launched a major push to attract more adult learners and recently unveiled a new logo as part of an upgraded marketing effort.
Reaching out to nontraditional students could be crucial to bring student numbers up. Board member Jerry Griffin, the superintendent of school in the Malone Central School District, noted that the number of students in this year’s class will be the lowest in 100 years and the following year does not look much better.
“If you look at regional high schools in this area, we have never had a class this low,” said Griffin.
Griffin did note that over the next few years the graduating classes start to grow again.
But college officials are looking for ways to bolster their finances beyond growing enrollment and the revenue tuition brings in.
An additional source of funds will be a fee that nursing students will have to pay, beginning this spring. Board members said the students will be required to pay between $100 to $150 fee for a background check, which will not be done by state police but by an outside agency. Details of the chance, including which agency will conduct the checks, have not been worked out yet.
Another change coming to the campus this year is break housing. It is a chance for students who do not want to return home to stay at the campus housing during the holiday breaks.
NCCC President Joseph Keegan said he is also working on improving safety measures at the college.
“We have been working with the college community to improve campus safety. We have installed door locks; we will be updating the video surveillance cameras and updating our policy on that,” said Keegan.
The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Dec. 20, but that could change depending on how many board members have holiday commitments.