Schenectady County

SCCC eyes fixes for sliding enrollment

As enrollment drops again this year, SCCC President Steady Moono is focused on a new mentorship prog
SUNY Schenectady County Community College (SUNY SCCC) held its first day of classes for the Fall 2016 semester on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. More than 6,200 students are taking courses in more than 50 academic programs at SUNY SCCC this fall. Students...
SUNY Schenectady County Community College (SUNY SCCC) held its first day of classes for the Fall 2016 semester on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. More than 6,200 students are taking courses in more than 50 academic programs at SUNY SCCC this fall. Students...

As enrollment drops again this year, Schenectady County Community College President Steady Moono is focused on a new mentorship program and a five-year academic plan to bolster student support and class offerings.

The school plans to launch a mentorship program this fall with over 100 students being paired with faculty and staff mentors who will serve as a personal resource for students. Moono, who is spearheading the program, said he is still recruiting and training staff and faculty members to be mentors and expects to have the volunteer mentors paired with students in the next couple of weeks.

“My aspiration, my dream is that every student who comes here must have a mentor,” Moono said during a wide-ranging discussion on the first day of classes Tuesday.

The mentorship program and a broader look at the school’s overall academic offerings are part of the college’s constant battle to attract and retain students. Following a nationwide trend at community colleges, enrollment at SCCC is down 11 percent from the previous academic year.

The head count Tuesday was 6,200 students, compared with 7,000 at this time last year, according to college spokesman David White. The college is still enrolling students for classes this fall.

Students — who self-report that they are having more work hours and family obligations — are also reducing their classloads, taking part-time schedules where in the past they may have taken full-time schedules. And student retention remains a persistent problem, Moono said, as much of the enrollment loss comes from students who don’t return for a second year of school.

During the recession, student enrollment increased dramatically year after year as people turned to colleges during a tight job market. College officials hope that by increasing course offerings — in programs like casino management and craft brewing — and giving students more one-on-one attention, they will attract more students and keep the students all the way through graduation, finding the school’s “new normal.”

“I still contend that there is a percentage of students that we could still retain if we understood where the loss points are, if we understood what life issues they are facing, and can we intervene in that,” Moono said.

The five-year academic plan, which Moono said would likely go to the board of trustees later this fall, would spell out academic areas the school hopes to grow and areas that may be out-of-date or ripe for elimination. As part of the plan’s development, the college seeks input from businesses and industry leaders about what employees need to know in the coming years. This fall the academic plan will be reviewed by over a dozen advisory committees.

“We are taking a look at every program but also looking into the future,” Moono said. “What kind of programs do we need to have in place?”

Moono said it is important the college expands its science, technology, engineering and math programs in the coming years, as well as focus on “clean” manufacturing — technology-driven production methods. Moono also highlighted increasing the school’s offerings in battery technology and aviation security.

The school’s new brewery program, for example, would likely be in line for investments over the next five years as the school looks to expand the on-campus capacity for brewing beer in class settings, Moono said.

And with Schenectady’s casino opening just around the corner, the college is focused on positioning itself as the chief supplier of trained casino employees in jobs from poker dealer to fraud investigator to head chef.

The college has worked with Rush Street Gaming, which will own and operate Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, and plans to funnel students through a dealer training program that will start in October. The school and company do not have a formal agreement guiding its partnership, but Moono said he would be interested in developing one.

The college recently joined the national Achieving the Dream network of community colleges, which gives the school a pair of “coaches” and a data expert to help it identify areas where it can improve. The network gives SCCC access to best practices from other colleges and other shared resources.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we need to see what others have done in areas where we struggle,” Moono said.


Even though most courses started Tuesday, there are still chances for prospective students to enroll in classes this semester. A second batch of classes, which run on an accelerated schedule, starts Sept. 26. The more than 20 course options largely serve general education classes that would meet the requirement of any student at SCCC.

The classes give students a chance to enroll even if they miss the early September timing for most classes, and give an opportunity for students to add classes after getting a feel for their class schedule. The accelerated nature of the second session also appeals to students interested in completing a course in fewer class periods. Classes that meet twice a week, for example, run 20 minutes longer than the same courses that began Tuesday.

“The schedule we put together will accommodate almost any major,” said Penny Haynes, SCCC vice president of academic affairs.

The school added about four or five new options to the late-starting fall schedule, and Moono said he plans to continue to expand the second session options as the school analyzes how best to set its class schedule to meet student needs.

To enroll in classes for this year, call the SCCC admissions office at 381-1366 or drop by the school.

Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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