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SUNY ECC South to discontinue six programs due to low enrollment

"We have teach-out plans for each individual student"
Posted at 6:35 PM, Mar 23, 2022

ORCHARD PARK, NY (WKBW) — “Quite frankly — we probably should have pulled a few of these curricula down years ago,” remarked David Balkin, president, SUNY Erie Community College.

ECC announcing plans to reorganize campus operations with a direct effect on ECC’s South Campus in Orchard Park.

Programs at ECC South.

Six programs will be cut, reducing the footprint of the south campus:

  • Casino Gaming Machine repair Technology
  • Computer-Aided Drafting & Design Technology
  • Dental Laboratory Technology
  • Graphic Communications Technology
  • Web Page Design
  • Health Information Technology

ECC says it's forced to cut the six programs on its south campus because of low enrollment.

“But the reason they are being canceled is — there isn't an adequate return on investment for our faculty to be spending time developing these programs. We literally had some programs that have been on our books that we had one student enrolling,” explained Balkin.

ecc south campus 1 .jpg
ECC South campus.

ECC says it's trying to save money and become more efficient across all three of its three campuses — ECC south, north, and its downtown Buffalo campus.

ECC’s president tells 7 News college is facing a $9-million budget shortfall and there's been a 50% drop in enrollment in the last decade.

“Like any business, you have to step back — look at your portfolio and constantly make adjustments to ensure you are staying relevant,” Balkin noted.

Along with cutting the six programs at the south campus in Orchard Park, the college will also move 16 programs from the south to the north campus where those same programs are already being offered, making the north campus a hub for those programs.

David Balkin, president, SUNY Erie Community College.

Balkin met with me on the north campus where he was attending a Student Engagement and Well Being Conference Wednesday.

“When you start cutting programs, I think the fear from the community is will that campus close?” Buckley asked.

“We don't have plans in place to close that campus,” replied Balkin. “As we try to reorganize and restructure, in ensuring that as we make any kind of substantive change, that we talk to our Middle States Commission, which is our crediting organization, the Department of Education — everybody who has an interest in ensuring that we are successful to make sure we are doing everything correctly.”

ECC says it will help students currently enrolled in these six programs to transition out.

ECC North campus.

“The programs that are canceled — we'll be ‘taught out’ — we have teach-out plans for each individual student,” explained Balkin.

Balkin tells me you will also see ECC collaborating with companies that can provide students with hands-on experience.

“And if we can take a program and teach it in a program or in a facility that has the assets and give the students the opportunity to get real-life work experience like in the earn and learn experience while they're at SUNY Erie — all the better,” responded Balkin.

There were some rumors swirling that these campus changes could be a precursor for the future building of a new Buffalo Bills stadium.

highmark from ecc s .jpg
Highmark Stadium is across from ECC South.

The current Highmark Stadium is across from the south campus.

But Balkin says no connection to dropping courses to future Bill's stadium.

“There's literary no connection,” answered Balkin.

But Balkin said they might be considering leasing space to contractors who would be working on the future stadium in Orchard Park.

“It might be possible, for example, that we could lease space to some of the construction companies that are working on the new Bills stadium — we are right next door. We’re interested in generating revenue in any way possible,” noted Balkin.

Balkin also pointed out that ECC South does generate revenue with parking during Bills games.

I reached out to the Erie County Executive offices in response to the changes at ECC South.

There was no official statement, but spokesman Peter Anderson, in an email stated “it’s no secret that enrollment is down, particularly at the South Campus, and many students are now able to learn online. Fewer students reporting to class on-campus means less need for that physical space. Reductions in the size of the campus, as well as staff, are options that would save money and should be explored for the long-term health of SUNY Erie,” wrote Anderson.

As for the campus changes regarding Bill's stadium talks, Anderson wrote “the SUNY Erie reorganization at South Campus is not related to or affected by Bill's stadium negotiations; they are separate issues being addressed separately.”