Notes from the President

Christopher Gray, Ph.D. | Founding President, Erie County Community College 

Here we are in 2023, and almost unbelievably, EC3 is readying itself for the fourth semester of classes.  Just a month out, our focus over the next four weeks will be on recruitment – not just of new students but of those who took classes in Fall 2022 but have not yet signed up for their Spring courses as yet.  Our job is to find students and help them get started.

I’ve talked before about how students have changed in their approach to higher education since I was a new college student.  Gone are my own college days of registering for classes months in advance and praying that I got a seat.  Gone are the days of priority registration when students would clamber over one another to register on the first day on which they were eligible to do so.  Instead, we – like most of the modern American economy – have become a just-in-time industry.  Our students don’t feel the sense of urgency that we of a different generation felt.  And, in my opinion, they shouldn’t.

Education is, fundamentally, a service industry.  And while it makes some people super grumpy to think about it as such, education is also a business.  To survive as such, we need to evolve and change with the students, our customer base. I’m not going to beat this analogy to death, but the fact is that we lose relevance and jeopardize our own survival if we insist on holding up old models just because they are familiar.

For this reason, we here at EC3 are focusing heavily on recruitment over the next month.  We’ve been ramping up our presence on our social media channels, and we have a slew of in-person information sessions scheduled.  If you like hockey, you can find us at the Otters games from now through the end of March.  If you are a YMCA user, we’ll be there next week.  We have a virtual open house scheduled at the end of this month. And that’s just the schedule as it appears today.  I’m hoping that we continue to find more ways to get out there and find our students.  I maintain that it is part of our job – all of us – to spread the word.

I once worked with a colleague whose approach to outreach was non-existent; she actually said to me once, “they know where we are, and they know what we offer.”  And that was that.  I was gobsmacked.  Such callous disregard for the students she was supposed to serve, and, quite frankly, her lack of professionalism, showed me exactly the kind of leader that I did not want to become.  As I accepted leadership positions with greater responsibility, I made sure that these kinds of uninvested employees never again darkened the doors of my team.  We are here because of our students – always.  We have to keep that ever in mind.

During the next few weeks, we will hopefully see our enrollment numbers increase, and we often see the biggest leap a week or so before the new semester actually begins.  In our case, this means that the end of January and beginning of February will be busy, and that’s good.  Choosing to pursue a college education is a big step, and it’s one that prospective students often take serious time to ponder; we should reward that, not punish that.  We should accommodate, not view these students as an inconvenience.  Every time students choose to invest in themselves, it’s a victory for them and for us.  And as we return from our winter break, our primary focus is to help nudge those who are on the fence.  If you know someone – or if you ARE someone – who has been thinking about EC3, there’s no time like the present.  We can’t wait to meet you!