At Monday night’s Board of Trustee meeting, Deputy Commissioner John Cech expressed concern for the sustainability of Dawson Community College (DCC) due to enrollment trends that challenge our ability to meet FY2013 budget projections. Our 2013 budget was prepared in the fall of 2010 approved in early 2011 by the legislature, the governor’s budget office, and the Board of Regents and was adopted for implementation. When submitted every expectation was that we would meet the enrollment required to fund the budget. In the spring of 2012 and the next fall semester we experienced a sharp drop in our in-state resident students for which DCC receives state funding. Non-resident enrollment had increased from the previous five years. To reverse this trend, our enrollment plan has been focused upon revitalized in-state recruitment, improved programs and services, and development of self-funded workforce training. To address the enrollment challenge our Trustees are revising our athletic recruitment policy including student waiver guidelines, our marketing is geared to Montana and Western Dakota, and we are strengthening career technical education programs while developing others. Commissioner Cech provided suggestions that we will implement such as stacked credentials, faster completion times and short term training already under construction by our faculty and staff. The original budget will be amended as needed.
During the meeting, Commissioner Cech mentioned the remarkable success of Williston State College as a model for workforce training. We, too, believe they have the model to follow. Since 1999 the state of North Dakota not only mandated a workforce training system but provided financial support to plan and fund a coordinated state workforce training mission for regional community colleges. Commissioner Cech related the financial outcomes of such a strategy in his presentation to our Trustees. They have enrolled 10,000 participants and garnered $20 million dollars in revenue. It is evident their model worked. It should be noted, however, that the success they enjoy in 2012 was predicated on the foundation of resources provided regional community colleges beginning in 1999. In our effort to replicate that model we will seek the support and guidance of the Commissioner’s office.
Dawson Community College became an institution of higher education in this community in 1940. In 72 years we have weathered many challenges and are stronger for each one. We are in the midst of “climate change” and we will survive. The pressing challenge is to grow Montana resident student enrollment in our Academic Transfer and Career/Technical programs of study. This demographic is our degree-seeking student and is our primary source of revenue. The next challenge is to develop a workforce training plan to meet the needs of business and industry in our region. This demographic is not degree-seeking and does not carry college credit but rather is industry-driven most often involving customized or contract training. This facet of our mission has been called corporate training and will be a focus of our institution.
Three colleges in Eastern Montana, MSU-Northern, MCC and DCC, have experienced a negative ten year enrollment growth. Common to all are outside factors such as impact of the Bakken, the decline in the number of high school graduates statewide and the mission change implemented by the University System moving the Colleges of Technology from career technical to the community college mission. All are fine institutions with similar challenges of location and opportunity. The goals we have are similar and we will achieve them. We believe in ourselves, our mission and a viable future for higher education in Eastern Montana.
Dawson Community College