Northeastern Junior College’s enrollment still down, but showing some improvement

College has completed its Higher Learning Commission accreditation, meeting standards in all but one category.

By CALLIE JONES | | Sterling Journal-Advocate
PUBLISHED: April 20, 2023 at 4:40 p.m. | UPDATED: April 24, 2023 at 12:52 p.m.

April 24, 2023
Sign that says Northeastern Junior College in front of Hays Student Center

Northeastern Junior College did see a decline in enrollment this spring, but it was a smaller decline than in the past. At an Advisory Council meeting Thursday, NJC President Mike White shared that enrollment for the fall was down about 6% but enrollment for the spring was only down 3%.

“Still red, would love to change that but we halved our deficit in full-time equivalent and that really rests on the faculty,” he said.

One of the things that helped improve enrollment was NJC’S discovery that it had many instructors willing to teach online courses so students could take those classes through NJC instead of Colorado Community College System Online. The college gained about 15 FTE over the course of a semester by doing that.

“Good for the guy who worries about the finances, but also I think good for our students who have a personnel connection even though it’s an online class,” White said.

He told the council NJC hopes to flatten or turn enrollment next fall, but noted they are not the only school struggling, it’s a nationwide problem with college enrollment really suffering.

NJC is doing everything it can think of to improve its student count. That includes running an intermural Esports league this spring. White would have considered it a success if students were able to connect and compete in a game or two, but they far exceeded his expectations with the teaming taking fifth place out of 25 in the nation in the Rocket League game and seventh out of 33 in the Overwatch game.

About 10 of the 18 students are returning next year when NJC officially starts its new team.

The college is also nearly ready to add a new trap shooting team next school year, which will be able to use the Logan County Shooting Sports Shooting Complex for free. Plus, there will also be a cheer performance team through a partnership with Ignite Athletics that will perform during winter sports timeouts.

“Hopefully, that will help us bring more people into our event center and attract young men and women, because it is a mixed team,” White said, adding that it will be a club, as cheer performance is not a National Junior College Athletic Association sport yet.

On the academic side, Jason Winter, industrial automation faculty, and Sharon White, renewable energy faculty, shared what they’ve been doing to try to attract students. Winter explained with one of his classes not filling up it gave him extra time this semester to go out and recruit, so he sent out around 50 emails to schools within a 230-mile radius and whoever would have him and his colleagues they went there to present, which ended up being about 25 schools. He was also able to attend the SkillsUSA contest.

On most of their visits, they took NJC’s mobile learning lab.

“One thing I found is a lot of students it turns out don’t know we’re here and secondly, they don’t realize that we’re a live-in campus,” Sharon White said. “That sparked some interest.”

Other things NJC is doing to try to improve enrollment and help with community needs include offering a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) course. A pilot program in Yuma for those who already have some training, for example, an agriculture driver, but wanted to further their training drew nine participants and another course last weekend saw 19 students. NJC hopes to expand that to Sterling with a course that would teach people how to go from driving a Mazda to a tractor-trailer. Auto and diesel students have rebuilt a truck for that program.

Mike White also shared that NJC has received a $496,000 grant to start a paramedic program thanks to 11 letters of support from emergency responders in this region, “who said we can’t get paramedics and we can’t afford to send them to the Front Range.” The grant, which takes effect in July, also includes funding for bilingual certified nurse aids.

Additionally, White reported NJC has finished its Higher Learning Commission accreditation and fully met the standards in 23 of the 24 evaluation areas. In one area they received the ranking “met with concerns.”

“Met with concern means that before our five-year next review, we have an interim cycle,” he said, sharing that area of concern is assessment, “we have a little bit of work to do to demonstrate how we assess everything from course level outcomes to program outcomes to institution outcomes and we’ll do that in about two years and be set for our next accreditation review in about five years.”

White also shared that the practice floor in the Bank of Colorado Event Center has been replaced following some water damage with the help of insurance.

Earlier in the meeting, the council was introduced to next year’s Student Associated Government officer team – Brock White, president; Brodie Reister, first vice president; and Clayton Marty, second vice president.

Along with the election of officers, ASG also asked students to approve increasing student fees and while the majority was in favor of it, it did not get the two-thirds voter approval that is required.

Lastly, the council recognized NJC’s CCCS Student Excellence Award winners this year who included Joao Lucas Cerqueora Fonseca, Inclusive Excellence Champion; Alexis Camara and Abby Scholz, Rising Stars; and Brady Zink and Brittney Geschwentner, Phi Theta Kappa All-Colorado Academic Team.


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