WILMINGTON — Southern State Community College (SSCC) has had to adjust in response to lower enrollment which is believed to be partly due to working-age adults more readily finding jobs and thus foregoing higher education.
Southern State President Kevin Boys, Ed.D., updated Clinton County commissioners on the state of the two-year community college that has four different campuses serving five counties.
Higher education in general is facing challenges, largely due to a declining number of high school graduates in the post-Baby Boom era.
Moreover, the residents of SSCC’s service area were especially hard hit by the DHL pullout, and the college saw an increase in enrollment for a while as jobless adults went back to school, often with financial assistance, said Boys.
Two summers ago Southern State reduced its personnel budget by half a million dollars through retirements and layoffs, but that was not enough when student enrollment dipped further by about 8 percent, Boys said.
Boys said more action had to be taken, and last year it was decided to eliminate a number of low-enrollment programs. Ten certificate and degree programs were eliminated and six faculty members lost their jobs. Nine other programs were suspended while they undergo redesign.
Personnel cost reductions over the three-year period between fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2020 will surpass $1 million.
In addition, there have been renegotiated energy contracts, lighting retrofits, and employee health insurance concessions.
The college’s new strategic plan prioritizes strategies to increase online course and program offerings, to continue efforts to be a preferred provider of College Credit Plus, and to increase short-term certificates for in-demand jobs.
But there are bright spots, emphasized Boys.
Over the past four years the College Credit Plus program has been a boost for SSCC. College Credit Plus provides a jump-start on college for college-ready students in grades 7-12 who can obtain dual high school and college credits.
College Credit Plus high school students now comprise more than 50 percent of Southern State’s student population, said Boys.
The program involves high school students coming to an SSCC campus to take college courses, as well as the college offering courses at high schools.
Another bright spot, Boys said, is that despite the overall enrollment decline, SSCC continues to see growth in online course offerings.
The Southern State president told the commissioners that there is under-utilized space at the Wilmington campus, and the space is available to entities that it makes sense to partner with, including the county government.
High-speed Internet and ample parking are two of the attractive features of the Wilmington campus, according to the update to commissioners.
Space there could also serve as a training facility for new employers, and for existing, growing employers, said college officials.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.