White Mountains Community College makes annual report to community

White Mountains Community College President Charles Lloyd provided an update on the status of the college while graduate Meg Brown of Littleton and current student Dante Aquino of North Conway spoke about their personal experiences. (BARBARA TETREAULT PHOTO)

BERLIN — "We’re actually in a good place," White Mountains Community College President Charles Lloyd said at the college’s annual informational meeting with legislators and advisors.

Lloyd said that while the headcount and the number of total credits are down, the numbers are better than expected. Current enrollment is 1,086, which is down by 6 percent. The number of total credits is down 3 percent but Lloyd said the college budgeted is down 5 percent.

In addition, he said there are 181 first-time freshmen, an increase of 11. He said WMCC has a 67 percent retention rate for full-time students and a 62 percent rate for part-time students. Almost half of WMCC students graduate within three years compared to a national average of 19 percent.

Financially, Lloyd said the college is in much better shape, noting last year at this time it was running $670,000 in the red. He said the deficit currently is $143,000, and Lloyd said he expects it to be in the black by next July.

The college received a $49,450 grant from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund to pay for a feasibility study for the child development center. It also received a $240,220 Northern Border Regional Commission grant to rebuild an industrial maintenance/millwright program at the Berlin campus.

The North Country Health Consortium is funding a college counselor and WMCC is on the college access navigator.

At the Littleton Academic Center, the college is reviewing space needs and program offerings and planning for future growth.

A ribbon cutting for a new science lab was just held at the North Conway Academy Center. A new veterinary assistant certificate program at the center has 16 students and there is also a new massage therapy program there. Lloyd said enrollment is growing at the center.

Lloyd said numbers for both the Running Start and the Early College Programs are up. Running Start allows high school students to earn college credits taking college courses at their high schools at greatly reduced costs. Early College allows high school students an opportunity to enroll in college credit courses. He said the college continues to build connections with area high schools.

The New England Commission of Higher Education just completed a four-day site visit as the college goes through its 10-year accreditation process.

A proud Lloyd reported all the 2018 nursing program graduates passed their National Council Licensure Examination. The college had suspended the program five years ago to overhaul and redesign it because test results were below average.

The welding program at Berlin continues to attract attention with 43 students this year, up from 28 students last year.

The gathering then heard from a current student and a graduate about how the college has made a difference in their lives.

Dante Aquino enrolled at WMCC in 2017 after what he described as an unsuccessful high school career at Kennett High School. Eager but disorganized, he looked to transition into the academic world. At the North Conway Academic Center, Aquino said found a tight-knit community that has helped him and he is now pursuing an associate degree in biological sciences.

Meg Brown, the owner of MegaBug Photography and Nutmeg Media in Littleton, said she graduated from high school in 2012, a year early with 18 college credits. She said she decided to take summer classes at WMCC before starting classes full-time at Lyndon State College in Vermont that fall as a sophomore. But Brown said she realized she had made a mistake and after finishing the semester, transferred back to WMCC for the second semester. That May, she graduated with an associate’s degree in liberal arts and stayed on for another year to pursue a degree in English. In the spring of 2014, Brown said she transferred back to Lyndon State but continued to take courses at both facilities. With all her credits, more than half from WMCC, she graduated in December 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English, an associate degree in business management, and a minor in marketing. She was 19 years old with no college debt. She rented a studio in Littleton and works full-time at marketing and photography.

“I truly believe that our country undervalues the power of community college. WMCC gave me a quality education at a great price while allowing me the flexibility to work,” she said.

Academic Affairs researcher Suzanne Wasileski and STEM Professor John Holt outlined the process of completing the college’s strategic plan and its key pillars. Holt said there will be no new committees or initiatives formed to implement the plan, noting that most of it is already on-going. The plan calls for providing access through the use of technology, satellite locations, and partnerships; creating pathways for students seeking academic and career success, internal and exterior communication, long-term sustainability, and community engagement and partnership.

After the presentations, the crowd enjoyed dinner prepared by the students and faculty in the college’s culinary arts and baking and pastry arts programs.

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