Enrollment, cybersecurity highlight State of the College address

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Boosting enrollment and enhancing cybersecurity were two of Northwest College President Stefani Hicswa’s major points of focus in her State of the College address to NWC employees and trustees last week.

Hicswa acknowledged that NWC enrollment is down, which she said could be due in part to enrollment also dipping in area high schools.

However, the college president is not conceding the fight to increase enrollment

“Student success is key,” Hicswa said. “We are focused on retention and completion initiatives to ensure that students who start here complete their degree.”

One way NWC is looking to reverse its enrollment decline is by reaching out to more adult learners and part-time students.

“We increased our advertising to promote our ‘not too late to register’ message and the new Trapper Adult Learner Scholarship,” Hicswa said.

She said NWC has also revised its scholarship requirements so they’re available to those students.

“We hope to provide better access for people who may not have otherwise been able to afford college or are too busy with family and other commitments to go full-time,” Hicswa said.

She also pointed out that the current funding allocation model puts less of an emphasis on full-time enrollment and more on retention and completion when it comes to students.

“The mission of community colleges is to ensure access to post-secondary educational opportunities,” Hicswa said. “We want adult students to know this is a great time to finish college or to train for a new career. Students can take classes part-time or full-time, whatever fits into their busy lives. And, thanks to the [Northwest College] Foundation, there is funding available for more students than recent high school graduates.”

Hicswa also spoke about cybersecurity and the increasing threat that hackers pose to NWC and its computers.

“Internet scammers are getting more sophisticated all the time,” she said.

Hicswa warned those in attendance that if they receive an email appearing to be from her or one of NWC’s vice-presidents that seems odd, they should call the purported sender before acting on it and not click on any links in those questionable emails.

NWC is implementing mandatory monthly training modules which focus on various cybersecurity topics.

“The training modules focus on one topic each month,” Hicswa said. “The training gives employees timely information on ways we can improve and prevent issues.”

Also present at the NWC State of the College address were Sandy Caldwell, the new executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, and Evelyn Waiwaiole, the executive director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement, who also spoke to attendees last Monday. Like Hicswa, Waiwaiole touched on retention and completion when it comes to students.

“She [Waiwaiole] spoke about the importance of student engagement in retaining and graduating students,” Hicswa said. “She stated that our student success data exceeds national averages in several areas, including the fact that 97 percent of our students would recommend Northwest College to friends and family.”

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