New Northern Essex Semester Brings More Students, Budget Concerns

The beginning of Northern Essex Community College’s fall semester saw Gov. Charlie Baker’s new appointments join the board of trustees. They are Jennifer Borislow, of Jennifer Borislow Insurance of Methuen, and Anita Rajan Worden. (WHAV News photograph.)

New student Trustee Hannah Benning of Tewksbury. (WHAV News photograph.)

Enrollment at community colleges nationally has been declining since at least 2010. Experts blame the drop on either an improved job market since the Great Recession or prospective students’ failing to see the connection between education and better paying jobs, among other reasons.

This spring Northern Essex Community College planned for a 5 percent decline in fall enrollment, but leaders became worried this summer, college President Lane A. Glenn told trustees Wednesday.

“I told you in June, it looked like that was going to be tracking higher and, indeed over the summer, it started to track up toward double digits,” he said.

As the fall semester neared, however, enrollments fell only 2 percent overall or 4 percent in full-time equivalent students.

The discussion, the first trustees’ meeting of the new semester, also brought updates ranging from budgets to buildings.

With the state budget now in place for the year, Glenn pointed out the state did not fully commit to paying negotiated salary increases for professional faculty and clerical unions.

“The state has to fund the first year, but they’ve been leaving colleges on the hook for the other years of the contract.”

He explained the state has taken over the role of bargaining with unions, and the legislature once paid each year of the contract. Glenn said he hopes supplemental state budgets will cover these increases.

Glenn said the state also failed for the third year in a row to pay for a previously agreed upon performance-based formula. He explained the formula doesn’t pay simply for numbers of students or square feet of buildings, but rather the numbers of graduates in in-demand job areas, for example.

After a year-long, $15 million renovation, the Haverhill campus’ Spurk Building has reopened to students, trustees also learned.

The meeting was the first for new trustees Jennifer Borislow, of Jennifer Borislow Insurance of Methuen; Anita Rajan Worden, who co-founded with her husband Solectria electric cars and Yaskawa Solectria Solar; and student Trustee Hannah Benning of Tewksbury.

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