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Cuts pose challenge to growth at NCCC

ELIZABETHTOWN - North Country Community College is showing continued growth in both its enrollment and the programs it offers, but recent cuts to its state funding could pose major challenges to its plans for the future.

Dr. Carol Brown, the newly appointed president of NCCC, met with the Essex County Finance Committee March 15 to share an update of recent developments at the college.

Brown was quick to report how the college has seen continual double-digit increases in its percentage of enrollment through the past few years, including a 15 percent increase from last year to the present year. Enrollment for the fall 2009 semester was 2,300 students.

"We are anticipating another high enrollment this fall," said Brown.

One hundred seventy of those students attended NCCC's Ticonderoga branch campus, where the college expects to see continued growth through new offerings, such as its Massage Therapy and Registered Nursing programs. Future plans include the addition of an Associates degree program in Business.

NCCC is also hoping to add a Health Science certificate program at its main campus in Saranac Lake, as well as a degree in Gerontology.

"As we look at the demographics of the North Country, that's an area we believe is very important," Brown said.

Other plans include the development of a capital planning project to renovate and expand buildings on the main campus, many of which are more than 80 years old.

Glens Falls firm JMZ Architects will develop the plan, which will be submitted to State University of New York officials for approval. NCCC targets 2015 as the finishing date for construction.

Many of those future plans may be endangered by further cuts to state funding, however. Brown explained that the college took a $130-per-student mid-year cut, and an additional $245-per-student reduction is being proposed as part of Gov. David Paterson's 2011 executive budget.

"Those two reductions represent $600,000, roughly a quarter of our college's budget," said Brown.

NCCC is joining with community colleges across the state in an effort to oppose next year's cuts. In the meantime, however, the college's focus is on fiscal responsibility; obtaining additional grants for its educational programs in health care and other fields.

"Our goal is to maintain a budget that, in the coming year, will be flat," said Brown. "We believe we can do that."

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