Despite a small drop in enrollment this year, Northland Community and Technical College President Dennis Bona said the college has had many successes this year.
NCTC’s enrollment dropped about 6% this year from last fall, Bona said. Enrollment has been flat at NCTC in recent years after a drop in the mid-2000’s around the economic downturn in the U.S. Bona said he’s satisfied with the school’s enrollment as many community colleges across the nation see steep drops.
“We’re doing very, very well to stay flat,” he said during the annual State of the College speech on Thursday, Oct. 17. “Of course, I’d like to grow, but sometimes that means the economy has to turn south before our enrollment gets bigger and I’m not going to go out there to publicly want the economy to go south, so we’re pleased with the fact that we’re maintaining.”
Bona said graduates are also able to find jobs. Of the about 3,000 students that attend NCTC in some way, shape or form, about 1,800 of them are North Dakota residents, Bona said. About 85% of those graduates go on to take jobs and live in the region, he added, giving back to the local area.
Though there was a drop in enrollment, the college was recently ranked by WalletHub in the top 10 for community colleges in the United States, a stat of which NCTC is very proud, Bona said. It’s the second year in a row that Northland was ranked in the top 10. The study looks at hundreds of colleges across the country and ranks schools on a number of criteria, including student outcomes.
Bona said the ranking is a tribute to the hardworking faculty and staff at Northland, but is also a reflection of the communities Northland serves.
Earlier this year, Northland snagged a $7 million grant from the National Science Foundation to form the National Center for Autonomous Technologies at NCTC’s Thief River Falls campus. The grant is the largest in Northland’s history. Bona said this is another point of pride for NCTC.
The school has also added a cybersecurity program this year and received a $100,000 grant for open educational resources to help lower the cost of textbooks for students.
The college recently went through the process of re-accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission, making 2019 an especially important year for the school, Bona said.
The commission said NCTC showed several strengths including that it meets student needs, has strong community support, maintains outstanding facilities and has faculty and staff that has a positive attitude.
The commission also reflected on some areas of concern for the college, which included lack of evidence of utilizing data in decision making and that it needed further clarity on NCTC’s work with emerging populations. Bona said the college does use data to help make decisions, but lacks an institutional research department. He said the college would like to add that component one day when the school’s budget allows. The college also does a lot of work with emerging populations and New Americans but needs to continue to document its successes, Bona said.
If a program does not get re-accredited then the students attending that institution cannot qualify for federal financial aid. The commission will send back a site visit review in the next few months and let the school know if it will be re-accredited, Bona said.