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October Trustee Notes

Submitted by on October 17, 2016 – 6:51 pm

NECC President Lane Glenn opened the trustees’ meeting with a presentation called “Growing Grads and Bucking Trends”, based on a presentation that he gave to faculty and staff at the fall convocation.

Northern Essex and most other community colleges have been experiencing enrollment declines due to a number of factors, he said. Those factors include a strong economy, which typically means declining enrollments at community colleges, and changes in our developmental curriculum which have decreased the number of developmental courses our students are taking.

President Glenn shared stats showing that in this state UMass is growing, primarily by recruiting international students and out-of-state students; state university enrollments are stable; and community colleges are losing students.

From 2004 to 2015, community colleges accounted for 50.6 percent of college enrollment in Massachusetts.  This fall that number dipped to just below 50 percent of enrollments.

“Community colleges are still the most affordable route to a bachelor’s degree and we are also particularly well positioned to respond to workforce training needs,” he said.

After setting the stage, President Glenn introduced a series of administrators who shared perspective on topics such as retention, cost savings, new initiatives designed to grow enrollment, marketing, and recruitment.


Bill Heineman, vice president of academic affairs and student services, addressed retention, sharing what’s worked and the challenges that still remain.

Supplemental instruction, where a student leader is embedded in a class and offers weekly tutoring sessions for students, has proven to be very successful.  Students who are in a course with a supplemental instructor have a 72 percent completion rate as compared to a rate of 63 percent in the same courses without a supplemental instructor.

Retention continues to be a challenge, and has proven to be a “tough nut to crack”.  According to Heineman, we have a retention rate of 62 to 63 percent and we would like to get that up to 67 percent.

Retention of Hispanic male students is particularly challenging, said Heineman, and we will continue to pay specific attention to this group.

Cost Cutting Strategies

Mike McCarthy, vice president of administration, reported on a number of strategies that are being used to bring costs down.  Those strategies include decreasing the number of employees through early retirement incentives and merging positions; seeking out one time revenue sources such as a recent rebate with National Grid; and applying for grants to build resources for Information Technology and other areas.  The college is also addressing “efficiencies of the organization”, said McCarthy, looking for ways to better organize services to create better value.

New Initiatives

The college is pursuing several new initiatives designed to grow enrollments and bring new students to the college.

“We’re trying to chart our own destiny,” said President Glenn.

Those initiatives include communiversity partnerships (Lyndon State College and Regis are both offering bachelor degree completion programs on our Lawrence Campus); expanded high school partnerships; and PIES Latino de NECC, which is bringing international students to the college.


Ron Taber, chief marketing officer, said his team is focused on generating interests and inquiries, using a variety of strategies.  “The challenge is that we offer so many different things,” he said.  “We need to deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience.”

He said that analytics are being used to refine tactics and measure effectiveness.


Tina Favara, dean of enrollment services, shared highlights from the college’s recruitment plan, which has an overall goal of increasing enrollments by 5 percent by the year 2025.

The plan has five broad goals including:

·         Converting more applicants into enrollees

·         Increasing enrollment of targeted populations including minority students, adults, and students from top feeder communities

·         Increasing the enrollment of traditional college age students particularly those engaged in PK12 partnerships

·         Strengthening the NECC communiversity and four-year transfer pipeline

·         Expanding international student recruitment efforts and increasing international student enrollment at NECC


Professor Tom Greene completes a novel

A recent sabbatical gave English Professor Tom Greene the opportunity to complete his first novel, a science fiction story now called “Sky Climber” which he plans to begin sending to publishers later this month.

Greene wrote in his basement, starting each day at 5:30 a.m., and he says writing scene 2 alone took 5 to 6 weeks.

“This isn’t a one shot performance,” Greene told the trustees.   “You have to grind away every day.”

Greene’s 75,000 word novel is in the style of popular science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, Greene says.  An adventure novel, Greene’s book takes place on a space ship and something or someone is killing the passengers on board.

Greene hopes to share what he learned while on sabbatical writing his novel with his students, especially those who have expressed interest in writing their own novels.

Greene, who has a PhD in English from UMass Amherst, says he wrote stories for 17 years “without a single acceptance of any kind.”  That changed four or five years ago when his first story was published.  In 2014, “Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine”, the longest continuously published science fiction magazine in the country, published his short story “Another Man’s Treasure”.

Trustees Approve Revised Budget

Trustees unanimously approved revisions to the FY2017 college budget necessitated by lower than anticipated fall enrollments.

According to Trustee Marianne Paley Nadel, chair of the finance committee, the original budget which was approved in June had factored in a five percent decline in enrollment over the fall of 2015.  The actual decline was seven percent.

The new college budget is $45,017,792 as compared to $45,900,574 which was originally approved in June.

November Meeting Date

Due to a scheduling conflict, the November meeting of the board of trustees has been moved from the first Wednesday of the month to Wednesday, November 9.  The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. in Lawrence, Room 301 in the El-Hefni Allied Health & Technology Center.