Barbara Tetreault | Dec 7, 2020
Registration for the spring semester is underway at White Mountains Community College as the college wraps up a successful fall semester given the challenges of operating in a pandemic.
The main campus of WMCC is in Berlin, with academic centers in North Conway and Littleton.
The college went remote after the Thanksgiving break for the last two weeks of the semester. College offices remain open for student support and services.
WMCC President Dr. Charles Lloyd said fall enrollment was not down as much as they had feared due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a recent presentation to local leaders, Lloyd said fall enrollment, at 632, fell by only 2.8 percent (a loss of 18 students) from a year ago.
By comparison, enrollment in the entire Community College System of New Hampshire is down by almost 10 percent.
He said the WMCC saw an increase in part-time students, which he attributed to those dealing with child care issues in the wake of the pandemic.
Lloyd noted with pride the college’s 49 percent graduation rate — nationally the rate is under a third. The college also reports that 84 percent of its graduates are employed in their field of study or enrolled in a four-year college. The college, which held a carefully planned in-person graduation in September, saw 178 students graduate in 2020.
Orientation Day was also different this year. Rather than have one large one, the college this summer held mini-orientation sessions by program for incoming students. The college also installed BetterHelp — an on-demand-guidance counseling platform.
The fall semester began Aug. 31 with a majority of classes held online. Over the summer, high-quality Zoom equipment was installed in all classrooms, Lloyd said.
He said the college cannot go entirely remote because of the large number of technical programs with labs like welding, nursing, culinary arts and auto mechanics.
But face-to-face learning is limited, and classes are staggered to keep student volumes low.
At the Littleton academic center, Lloyd said the commercial driver training program has new trucks, and the program is growing as it tries to keep up with demand. He said the college needs a new facility in Littleton that can accommodate its diesel and heavy equipment programs and is aggressively looking to expand.
Another popular new program is the veterinary assistant program at the North Conway academic center.
Lloyd reported that the college continues collaborating with businesses on workforce development.
Recently, it has been working with Pak Solutions in Lancaster. A leader in the production of security bags and flexible packaging products, the company is under new ownership and this year completed a $7 million expansion. The college has run on-site training for the company.
Lloyd said the college budgeted for a bigger drop in enrollment than occurred, and as a result, it is in relatively good shape financially. In fact, he said WMCC expects to break even for the 2021 fiscal year, although he warned there are still unknowns ahead with the pandemic.
Students received a total of $478,853 in tuition assistance in federal funds made available because of COVID-19. Eighty-nine percent of the student body receives financial assistance.
WMCC received $418,101 in federal funding, which it used to improve technology for remote classes and to provide a safe environment.
Other updates: The North Country Teacher Certification Program now allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in three years through a partnership between WMCC and Plymouth State University.
Students can earn 78 credits and an associate’s degree in elementary education from WMCC. The student can then graduate from Plymouth State with a bachelor’s degree by taking an additional 48 credits.
Robin Scott, head of the teacher certification program, said there is a robust pipeline of graduates in the North Country.
Lloyd said the college is looking at offering a similar certification program for middle- and high school English and social studies teachers.
The spring semester is scheduled to open Jan. 19. For more information or to register, visit WMCC.edu