October 21, 2021

Chancellor visits TC3

Catherine Wilde/contributing photographer

At right, SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson speaks with recovery center specialist Ashley Dickson during a tour of Tompkins Cortland Community College Thursday. Johnson toured the college’s new recovery center as well as its food pantry during her visit.

DRYDEN — SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson said Thursday during a tour of Tompkins Cortland Community College that its new recovery center is a prime example of the kind of wraparound service the college can provide for students.

Johnson visited the center as part of her tour of TC3, a stop on her statewide tour of 64 State University of New York campuses.

The center opened in January and is a place for students to go to be with likeminded peers who are also in recovery or dealing with relatives who are addicts, said Sara Watrous, alcohol and drug prevention coordinator at the college.

TC3 has been dealing with declining enrollment for years, a trend that is tied to the economy, noted Johnson. With unemployment at a low — Cortland’s rate is down to 5.8 percent, the lowest February level in 18 years — low enrollment is to be expected, she said.

According to figures from TC3, the number of full-time students fell to 1,604 last fall from 2,848 in the fall of 2011.

Including both full and part-time students, there are 2,173 students enrolled for the spring semester this year, said college Communications Director Peter Voorhees, compared to the 2,326 enrolled in the spring 2018.

The college is also struggling with retaining students, TC3 officials said, though no figures were immediately available.

But TC3 is doing all the right things to reverse this trend, Johnson said.

“Facilities like this provide the kind of wraparound student services students are looking for,” Johnson said at the recovery center.

The college is also trying to recruit more students and seek non-traditional students, she said.

The state’s Excelsior Scholarship program, a tuition forgiveness program for income-eligible families, improves retention, Johnson said. Retention rates for student from the first to second year of the Excelsior Scholarship program were up 20 percent SUNY-wide.

Johnson also visited the college’s food pantry, which expanded and began offering more options last fall, including refrigerated goods like milk, eggs and meat.

Johnson said she was impressed by the size of the pantry, which is the only brick-and- mortar pantry offered in a community college in partnership with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, said Matt Kiechle, assistant director for health education.

Kiechle said the pantry used to be about half the size it is now, and only offered non-perishable goods.

Food is assessed a certain number of points and all students get 50 points a week to acquire items, removing stigma, Kiechle told Johnson.