SARANAC LAKE — A new report shows North Country Community College is among the top SUNY community colleges when it comes to financial health and stability.
The recent SUNY report calculated the financial composite score for all of its 30 community colleges, ranking them on a scale of +3.0 to -3.0, with +3.0 being the highest mark of financial health.
The report considered each college’s reserves, ability to borrow and financial viability and efficiency, among other factors, in determining its ranking.
TIED FOR TOP
In 2017, the most recent year from which audit data was available, North Country Community College had a score of +2.9 and was tied with Monroe Community College at the top of the financial health rankings.
This indicator follows another recent SUNY report that shows NCCC has the second-best fund balance/operating budget ratio among the 30 state community colleges.
Based on data from the 2017-18 budget year, the college holds in its reserves or fund balance 33 percent of its operating budget, twice what is recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association.
NCCC President Dr. Steve Tyrell attributed the college’s position in these rankings to sound financial planning through the addition of more diverse academic program offerings and alternative delivery systems.
“These indicators show the financial stability the college has achieved and are a result of its desire to provide residents of the North Country region with new programs that are delivered in a manner that best serves these residents,” Tyrell said in a news release.
The landscape of student recruitment is rapidly changing due to declining high-school populations throughout many parts of the state, the release noted.
The advent of online course and degree programs was one of the first significant changes in how higher-education credentials were delivered.
Although online-course registrations did increase, the growth was slow because adult learners are largely looking to acquire credentials at a pace faster than what would occur in a traditional 15-week span for a course, the release said.
As NCCC faced the same decline of enrollment as its peer institutions did from 2011 to 2014, it began to target adult learners with new academic offerings. Today, 80 percent of its enrolled students are adult learners.
It also began to seek niched sites to offer academic programs. In 2016, NCCC was the only community college in the state with a double-digit increase in enrollment.
This was accomplished by stabilizing the current decline in enrollment and by serving correctional facilities with academic programs through the Second Chance Pell initiative, the release said.
Two years ago, the college began to offer online degree programs for adult learners.
Now, North Country’s full-time equivalent enrollment runs about 200 FTEs above the smallest community colleges in the state. In 2012, it was the smallest of the 30 community colleges.
Recently, the college designed new delivery systems for adult learners. Beginning this year, students can complete three-credit classes in 7.5-week blocks.
By enrolling in multiple blocks a year, they can finish an associate degree in less than two years.
Another initiative, in Ticonderoga, will allow students to complete classes online and on campus on Saturdays.
This hybrid design is attractive to adult learners looking for a traditional college experience that will not impede their work schedule, the release said.
“The recent string of small college closures in the Northeast region certainly has given institutions of higher education reason to pause and evaluate the stability of their financial position,” Tyrell stated.
“For it to maintain this strong financial position, North Country Community College will need to continue to explore and refine how it can deliver an academic credential in a manner that is most desirable to an adult learner.
"With a robust fund balance, it is well positioned to explore new strategies on how it will continue to stabilize enrollment and fortify its current financial position.”