Wilkes Community College administration scrutinized every vacant position over the last 18 months and saved $1.4 million by leaving 20 unfilled, the WCC trustees were told during their Jan. 12 meeting.
Dr. Jeff Cox, WCC president, said these and forthcoming similar steps are the result of reduced enrollment and related state funding cuts. Cox cited goals of positioning WCC for budget cuts and minimizing the impact on current employees.
Morgan Francis, WCC senior vice president of administration/CFO, said during the meeting that eight to 10 more positions need to be cut to balance the 2023-24 budget before that fiscal year starts July 1.
WCC had a full time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of 2,919 in the 2018-19 school year and 2,949 in 2019-20 after reaching 3,008 in 2017-18, but FTEs fell to 2,495 in 2020-21 due to COVID-19.
Since COVID restrictions were eased, WCC’s FTEs increased but not to pre-pandemic levels and now are about 300 FTEs below the total in 2017-18. FTEs rose to 2,599 in 2021-22 and 2,701 in 2022-23, said Francis.
The state bases community college funding on FTEs, which measure the number of course hours taken by a student body in a given year. The more course hours taken, the more funding received.
Francis said the loss of 300 FTEs equates to WCC losing about $1.8 million in state funding, plus WCC officials expect about $600,000 in state funding for WCC’s Ashe Campus to phase out starting in 2023-24 due to less enrollment in Ashe County alone.
Cox said, “The COVID-19 enrollment impact was severe and it seems it’s going to take us a little longer to fully recover.”
Most WCC students are from the college’s designated service area of Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties. It was reported in the trustees meeting that the WCC Education Promise Scholarship program awarded $131,453 to 129 students from these three counties since its inception in the fall of 2021.
For students with at least a 2.0 grade point average while in high school, the scholarship covers all of the balance owed for WCC tuition and institutional fees after students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and receive whatever federal or state aid for which they are eligible.
During the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. board meeting on Jan. 13, Cox noted that WCC still faces enrollment headwinds with a shrinking K-12 population.
“We’re having to get a bigger and bigger proportion of students coming to us from the high schools to maintain the status quo,” he said, referring to the overall decline in K12 enrollment in Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany. “Again, we’re encouraged by the numbers moving in the right direction at this point.”
A school district’s average daily membership (ADM) the second month of the academic year determines its state funding that year. ADM is student head count in kindergarten through 12th grade. ADM in the Wilkes schools in the second month of the current school year (2022-23) was 8,328.
ADM dropped 5% from the last month of the 2016-17 school year to the last month of the 2018-19 school year in the Wilkes schools, from 9,435 to 8,972. It dropped by 1.2% in this period in the Ashe schools, from 2,981 to 2,946. It fell by 0.7% in the Alleghany schools, from 1,342 to 1,332.
From the last month of 2019-20 to the last month of 2021-22, ADM dropped by 7.8% in both the Wilkes and Ashe schools. ADM fell from 8,885 to 8,191 in the Wilkes schools and from 2,899 to 2,673 in the Ashe schools. In the Alleghany schools, it dropped by 2.6% (from 1,358 to 1,323).
NC Tech Paths update
Zach Barricklow, vice president of innovation and organizational change at WCC, reported that WCC formalized a Master Services Agreement with NC Tech Paths that outlines collaborative activities and financial relationships between the two entities.
NC Tech Paths recruits students for information technology degree programs and continuing education at WCC.
The college pays NC Tech Paths a higher recruitment fee for accelerated IT training sessions provided by Per Scholas, each for 12 to 15 weeks. These are conducted through WCC’s Workforce Development and Community Education division, with NC Tech Paths underwriting most costs associated with contracting with Per Scholas.
Per Scholas and NC Tech Paths are both non-profits with a goal of preparing people for tech sector careers.
A lower recruitment fee is paid to NC Tech Paths for all other in-house WCC programs because WCC covers costs of operating them.
Barricklow said NC Tech Paths provided about $100,000 to support WCC students starting in 2022, including the majority of living stipends for adult students in accelerated IT training and funds for laptops for students needing them for classes but unable to afford the devices.
He said NC Tech Paths also orchestrates job seeking and job placement of WCC graduates. Barricklow said that in 2022, NC Tech Paths placed 95% of graduates (40 people) in IT jobs paying $48,000 to 92,000.
“All in all, total recruitment fees projected to be paid by WCC to NCTP (NC Tech Paths) represent a significant net financial gain to WCC via enrollment revenue generated,” he added.
It was reported that WCC employability services held several workshops and participated in many additional activities in 2022 to help students become more employable and develop job search skills. This included 197 individual sessions for career/employability counseling and 33 in-class career/employability workshops and professional development for 466 participants.
Also, the six WCC career coaches provided 3,189 individual sessions reaching 1,515 high school students. Combined, they conducted 233 group information sessions that reaching 8,616 students.
Kristen Macemore, dean of business and public service technologies, has assumed the role of interim vice president of instruction at WCC. Dr. Yolanda Wilson resigned as vice president of instruction after accepting a president’s position in Maryland. Jamie Reavis is the new chair of transportation technologies following the retirement of Hardin Kennedy from this position. Earl Byrd is now chief of campus police. Tracy Lowder is the new curriculum records manager.
Instructors hired since the trustees last met include Patricia Chaffin, English; Mary Garris, cosmetology; Stephanie Gragg, nurse aide; and Tate Foster, applied engineering technology. Makayla Pennington resigned as a nursing instructor and Sherry Shaw retired as a business administration instructor. Caitlin Howell is a new instructional technologies specialist.
WCC’s 39th annual Northwest Fire & Rescue College was held on the Wilkesboro campus Nov. 2-6, drawing 83 firefighters and emergency rescue workers from 27 agencies and 11 counties across North Carolina. This program draws participants from across North Carolina and parts of Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
The 2022-23 WCC Annual Fund drive began July 1, 2022, with “The Power of Participation” as the theme. As of Dec. 16, $54,545 had been contributed toward a goal of $70,000.
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