North Campus to Remain Open, Focused on Workplace Development
Pennsylvania College of Technology President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour announced Friday that the College is suspending regular credit programming at the North Campus at the end of the current semester, due to declining enrollments. All other operations at the campus, near Wellsboro, will be continued.
"We strongly value and intend to maintain our important workforce-development partnerships in the Northern Tier," Dr. Gilmour stated. "Penn College's work with area business and industry, our community involvement and our partnerships with other educational institutions in the region will continue from our local 'home base' at the North Campus."
State Sen. Roger A. Madigan, who serves the local district and is a member of the College Board of Directors, announced his support for the College's new direction for the North Campus.
"This is good news for the people of the Northern Tier. We are fortunate to have continuing access to the resources of the state's premier technical college especially in the area of workforce development. Penn College will be here to help area employers and employees succeed. That is what is most important for the future of our region."
With enrollment in North Campus credit classes declining steadily in recent years, there has been reported speculation regarding the future of the campus, which is located in the former Charleston Elementary School on Route 6 near Wellsboro. The Penn College president offered assurance that the campus is not closing.
"It's the right decision," Dr. Gilmour said. "We believe adjusting our services will allow us to continue to serve the most significant needs of the local community without placing an unreasonable financial demand on the institution's budget and without duplicating programs and services that may be offered at other institutions in the region.
The president explained that, when the North Campus opened in 1982, it was the sole provider of associate degree programming in the local region. Since that time, Mansfield University expanded its programming to include both associate and bachelor degrees.
"In a sparsely populated, rural area like the Northern Tier, it is not uncommon to reach a point of saturation, where the majority of people interested in a particular program or service have completed their participation and the market simply declines," she said.
"Rather than spend our energies competing for credit program enrollment, we intend to target our efforts toward training and retraining the workforce and offering personal enrichment and continuing-education opportunities through our noncredit programming."
Noncredit program offerings at the North Campus range from short-term classes, seminars and workshops to customized business and industry training programs that serve the specific needs of area employers. In the past year, the North Campus has seen a 50-percent increase in the number of noncredit course offerings and a 75-percent increase in these enrollments over the same period. Approximately 200 people have enrolled in noncredit programs so far this year.
In credit courses, enrollment has declined substantially in recent years. Only 78 individuals enrolled in credit courses last fall; as virtually all attend classes on a part-time basis, the total enrollment actually reached an equivalent of only 38 full-time students. The "high water mark" for North Campus credit enrollment was in 1992, when 227 full-time equivalent students were enrolled.
"It is simply not financially reasonable to maintain credit programming at these levels," the president explained. "The quality of instruction is compromised when we cannot sustain appropriate levels of enrollment in classes. The student's overall experience is at issue. We won't promise something we can't deliver. We feel that, at this time, our credit classes are becoming too small to offer a quality experience and sustain a viable operation. It makes better sense to concentrate our efforts on the kind of programming that is in the greatest demand the noncredit programs."
The president did not rule out future reconsideration or reinstating of credit programming, should the demand for courses warrant it.
"Penn College is in the Northern Tier because we were invited to come here. We came here to serve the people of this community and we intend to continue to do that in a manner that is both responsive to real needs and financially reasonable."
Penn College has been reviewing operations at the North Campus since 1997. The president said the review, which included a community and employer needs assessment as well as a survey of community leaders, was "an attempt to determine if operating vitality existed and if it did, to use it to spark activity at the North Campus."
"We greatly appreciate the commitment and the cooperation not only of staff at the North Campus, but also of the business, industry and community leaders of the Northern Tier, who have continued to work with us to keep this campus viable," Dr. Gilmour declared.
The suspension of credit programming at the North Campus will result in the elimination of two full-time and two part-time support staff positions at the close of the semester, leaving a total of four staff members at the site. The president said the staff members impacted have been notified and are being assisted by human-resources personnel. Wherever possible, positions available on the main campus will be offered to those displaced by these changes.
Students currently enrolled in credit courses at the North Campus have the opportunity to continue their education on the Main Campus, which is located approximately 50 miles south of the North Campus. They are being counseled by College staff regarding their options for the future. Many of the students now take courses at both campuses .