BENNINGTON — While student enrollment in Vermont’s public schools has been steadily declining for years, the local technical center is reporting more students have been choosing its services in recent years.
According to numbers shared with the school board last week, this school year the CDC has 232 students enrolled in introductory 50- to 60-minute courses, a figure that has increased each year since 2007, when 123 students were enrolled in these courses.
In the CDC’s 90- to 150-minute courses, which generally include laboratory work, there are 386 students this year, up two years in a row from 284 in 2008.
The adult education program has also been growing, with 839 adults enrolled in 2009.
Because the students are not at the center the full day, the school’s most important number, the full-time-equivalent (FTE) enrollment, which calculates the percentage of the school day students are at CDC, is 438, up over two consecutive years from 324 in 2008.
The increased FTE has increased the amount of state aid the school receives, which in turn lowered the tuition rate more than $300 to $12,332 next school year.
CDC Director Frank Barone said no one factor can be credited for the boost in enrollment, but he said the school has worked hard to recruit students by spreading information about its courses. “We make a conscious effort to get our good name out there,” Barone said. “We live and die by enrollment. We do, we’re a school of choice. If the kid decides not to sign up for a course, why run it?”
Barone said the school’s outreach coordinator has done a good job promoting the school, but it’s the students who are the most effective recruiters when they talk about the unique learning opportunities.
“Our number one ambassadors are our kids, who go back to their home schools and say ‘man … I had a great morning at the CDC,'” Barone said.
Another reason enrollment has likely grown, Barone said, is because of popular new programs, including cosmetology, which has grown from 10 students in its first year in 2007 to 31 students this year.
Another growing program has been the forestry program, which has increased from about 10 students in 2008 to 30 this year.
Keeping an open mind on adding new courses, and changing or eliminating courses that aren’t drawing many students, has helped keep the technical center a good choice for students, Barone said.
There are some programs Barone and the Education Committee have mentioned changing, primarily those that compete with courses taught at public schools, such as business, accounting and pre-law.
Enrollment in the accounting and financing program has shrunk each of the last five years, from about 25 students in 2006 to five this year.
“There is some competition. Kids can take business courses at their home school; why should they come here? So what we need to begin looking at is what can we offer here (to separate CDC programs from other schools)?” Barone said at Monday’s Education Committee meeting.
One way to make the CDC programs stand out, Barone suggested, is to incorporate additional credentials or specific training students couldn’t receive at a traditional school, which many programs already do.
The CDC is also attempting to start a culinary program by next spring and is considering changes to the building trades program to incorporate plumbing. “We just need to stay active,” Barone said.
Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with permission from The Bennington Banner, written by DAWSON RASPUZZI, Tuesday April 27, 2010
Troy Richardson is a Board Member of the Building Trades Department of the Career Development Center, which works to educated students in the building trades by building a home in the Bennington area from the ground up. This education allows students to enter the workforce trained to build, and exposed to the various skilled trades involved in building a house in the Bennington VT real estate market.