Editor's note: The following letter was sent to CapeCodToday.com Editor Walter Brooks in response to his story "Cape school competition goes to college", dated May 20, 2014.
An interesting piece to read, “It is unimaginable to imagine Cape Cod without its community college.” Not sure where the data is to support that conclusion. As you know, we’ve be challenged by the decline in high school enrollment and the change in the demographics of the region.
Enrollment in terms of credit hours has declined about 15% since 2009. We are not unique in terms of this shift, both across the state and the nation. In fact, the National Student Clearinghouse reported that community college enrollment nationwide fell 3 percent last fall after a nearly identical annual decline in fall 2012. As the economy continues to improve, the enrollment trend is generally inverse of economic growth. That said, we have the largest group of graduates this year at 696.
We recognize the changes in demographics. Our student population has an average age of 28 and is overwhelmingly part-time. Part-time students take fewer courses than full-time students and can take several years to complete degrees or certificates. Cape Cod Community College will serve over 6,000 credit students this year.
We also recognize demand for non-credit offerings and workforce development. We serve approximately 1,500 students through these offerings and this area will grow next year.
Clearly, we recognize the on-going need to continue to refresh programs, provide offerings in communities where we can build enrollment, and commit to programs over the long-term. By monitoring enrollment, working with our program advisory committees, and following workforce trends in the region and globally, we adjust programs to better align with the needs. We see this, for example, in our robotics and engineering offerings, the accelerated career programs, quick terms, and even with our developmental education.
We are offering courses for an LPN to RN program on the Vineyard that also benefits the Upper Cape with our partnership with lab space at MBL. We have credit and non-credit courses at Plymouth North, recognizing a community with high education needs. We have dual enrollment programs in two high schools, and we will begin the Early College Program with Bourne Schools this fall. With our off-campus offerings, we expose students to the possibilities of completing their degree or certificate program at CCCC.
We are clearly committed to the long-term, as is the Commonwealth, as demonstrated by the $36 million investment in our Science and Innovation Center. Unfortunately, designing and constructing a new facility takes time, but we are moving ahead. We are developing the airframe and powerplant program to support training needs in the airlines and government agencies, including the Coast Guard. We have had discussions with our colleagues at Bridgewater to ensure alignment of programs to enable students to transfer seamlessly.
When you look at the history of enrollment for community colleges, it does not follow that there will be an eternal growth curve. Colleges, like the economy, are prone to cycles. The history at Cape Cod demonstrates such changes with peak enrollments in 1980, 1990, and 2009 followed by reductions. One of the more recent nuances is the growth in non-credit and workforce development activities.
The nature of the community college allows it to be nimble, aligning with community and workforce needs. With the changes in demographics and the needs of students we continue the alignment process as we adapt and remain alert to regional and global trends and innovations. Our strategic plan and our annual budget development reflect this process as we continue our focus on student success.
At some point, it would be good to meet you. There’s much to be said, and a conversation may be more beneficial in extolling the future of the Cape Cod’s Community College.
John L. Cox, Ed.D., CPA, President
Cape Cod Community College