Drop in Community College Student Population is Only Temporary

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There has been a decrease in the student population at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and President of the institution Dr. Janet Smith said that hurricanes Irma and Maria are not the main reasons for the drop in numbers.

The College’s President announced during her appearance before the Standing Finance Committee that of recent HLSCC has been seeing fewer students. Dr. Smith said that enrolment has been declining over the last several years and the hurricanes also had an impact on attendance.

From September 2015 an additional school year was added to the Territory’s public high school system and the President of the College told legislators that she was informed that the reason why the enrolment was declining was because there was no High School graduating class.

The College’s President noted that the High School was HLSCC’s primary feeder, although she admitted that as a Community College they should have other sources of enrollment. “The Community College has two roles, one is to prepare students by giving them the first two years of a University Degree and the other is workforce,” Dr. Smith explained.

However, it was disclosed that workforce training which has the propensity to attract the largest number of students for the college was not a priority in previous years.

Now in order to remedy the situation the College’s President said that an agreement has been signed with the Vocational School to make a seamless transition from their programme to the College’s programme. This partnership is expected to not only bolster enrollment but also share resources between the two educational entities.

Dr. Smith further noted that the collaboration between the vocational school and the College will result in cost savings for the Government.

The announcement that the additional school year impacted the college comes as no surprise as even Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn anticipated that there would be a decrease in the number of H. Lavity Stoutt Community College students.

The Minister made the prediction in a statement he issued in 2015. In that statement Hon. Walwyn said: “As we are all aware, there will be no graduation from the secondary schools this year, and so the H Lavity Stoutt Community College will be undersubscribed for the upcoming academic year,” he stated.

However, the hurricanes, insufficient attention to workforce training, and the additional school year were not the only factors attributed to the decline in students as it was reported back in 2015 that the College was also struggling to attract students of a certain age.

That announcement was made by former President of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, Dr. Karl Dawson during a previous appearance before the Standing Finance Committee. At that time Dr. Dawson explained that the institution was still capturing the same percentage of graduates from the High Schools in the Territory. However, he stated that some of the other statistics showed that the average age of students seemed to be dropping; and that it would seem as if they are having trouble attracting mature students.

He noted that it would be somewhat expected, in a sense, as more persons go to college immediately after high school versus the number of persons who have deferred attending college.

The former College President suggested that the College continued to promote lifelong learning so that the persons who may have obtained an associate’s degree in 2014 may come back in 2018 for a certificate in something else that continues to upgrade them for the skills required in the workplace and the economy.

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