BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Local colleges are still feeling effects of the pandemic. Restrictions are lifting, but the enrollment numbers are sinking or staying flat.
"Students had some really tough choices to make during the pandemic for some of them, they chose to put their higher education aspirations on hold," said Dr. Matthew Giordano, President of Villa Maria College.
Enrollment at Villa Maria is down 10% due to the pandemic. So looking ahead to the fall--how do smaller, private schools like villa maria college draw students in, and keep enrollment numbers up?
Villa Maria hopes launching new programs draws students in.
"We’re very much a private college that focuses on community investment and being a catalyst…also to help with this transformation that’s occurring in Buffalo,” said Dr. Giordano.
They're offering digital arts and animation courses to support Buffalo’s growing film industry. As well as a new community health program.
“For people who feel called to care for others, we think this is an option to answer that call," said Dr. Will Meyer, Chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Villa Maria.
It’s a four-year program they designed because of the pandemic.
“We’ve seen an explosion of new, community health related jobs, contact tracers, people can become healthcare navigators, we’ll also be training people to go into community activism and organizing around health-related issues," said Dr. Meyer.
At Hilbert College in Hamburg, they’re taking things online with Hilbert College Global. Overall, the college enrollment was up 4% at Hilbert, but this year they are seeing a flat enrollment projection compared to last year.
Another big thing for these small schools —competitive costs. According to the College Board, the average cost of a four-year degree from a private school is just over $32,000/yr.
Hilbert’s new online division is the most affordable in the nation, per their website.
"The first two courses of those programs are free, private schools gotta be able to compete and that’s one of the things we had to do to compete," said Randy Bowen, VP of Enrollment Management at Hilbert.
Villa Maria is also working to make things more affordable for students by including the cost of books and supplies into tuition. Each school hopes these changes have a lasting impact on the future.
"The pandemic showed us that education needs to change and that it can be delivered differently and we’ve got a lot more coming so we’re really excited," said Giordano.