Study: JCC sees lowest enrollment since 1980s, employees favor reorganization

Updated: Sep. 12, 2023 at 4:30 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Enrollment at Jefferson Community College hasn’t been this low since the late 1980s. It’s a fact revealed in a recent study done by the college, not to focus on enrollment, but its organizational structure - how to run the college more efficiently, while fewer people are on the campus.

JCC President Dr. Dan Dupee says it’s imperative that the college deals with the facts so it can realize its future.

Before Dupee was named president, he was administrator-in-charge, and called for a campus study last year to let faculty and staff voice their opinion.

Dupee took over after Dr. Ty Stone led the college for 5 years. Dupee hoped the next president would see the facts.

“We want to move forward. We want Jefferson here for the next 60 years,” he said.

Dupee is that next president and is now armed with sobering data in a report that describes the past decade on campus as one with a degree of turbulence.

According to the study, full-time enrollment hit an all-time high during the 2012-13 academic year with 2,891 students.

During the 2021-22 academic year, there were 1,619 full-time students. That’s a 44 percent decrease. The last time enrollment was that low was in 1988-89.

The study shows that between 2017 and 2022, enrollment at JCC dropped 38 percent. That’s in line with other community colleges around the state which have seen a 31 percent drop.

Boosting enrollment isn’t as easy as adding programs. Dupee says JCC needs to offer what the community needs.

“You’re seeing us start with other colleges, see us bring programs here that maybe we only need to fill 15 jobs. But if we can do that with a partnership, now we are able to fill our community need, but also give students a chance to stay locally and fill those jobs,” he said.

Examples of that include a new surgical tech program with Mohawk Valley Community College, and one for dental hygienists.

JCC’s staffing has dropped too - 28 percent in the last 10 years. Dupee sees current employment levels staying stable.

“That’s the goal of this - if you want to be a Jefferson employee and you’re here now that you can continue to be a Jefferson employee,” he said.

Knowing there are fewer students and faculty, the study asked current staff members several questions about campus culture.

It showed strong support for logical, thoughtful structural reorganization. Many believe “top leadership positions need to be reduced.” Of 115 people who did the campus survey, 98 percent said the next college president needs a clear organizational structure. Citing too many changes have happened, the college dropped academic departments, and went to having schools, people’s titles changed without clarity. Simply put: campus confusion.

Dupee says if the employees feel this way, students must too, and fixing it will pay off.

“If we do this right, we should have better student engagement, better retention, all those things that will drive up enrollment,” he said.

This study was done by JCC’s Center for Community Studies. Out of the more than 200 community studies it has done, the response rate for this one was one of the highest the center has ever seen.

On Wednesday on 7 News This Evening, we’ll hear from the men who did the study and how they interpret the high response rate.