Freeport — During their February 21 meeting, the Highland Community College Board of Trustees approved a resolution reducing the number of full-time faculty, citing low enrollment in the Wind Turbine Technician program. The resolution impacts one full-time faculty member and will result in a discontinuation of the Wind Turbine Technician associate of applied science degree and certificates.
According to Highland officials, the program has seen a decline in enrollment in recent years. This past fall, there was insufficient registration to run the introductory course, and there are currently no new students registered for first-year wind technology courses.
“When the new degree was announced in the spring of 2008, there was a substantial wind farm being developed in the College district which led to a great deal of local and regional interest, particularly among non-traditional students looking to retool their skills to enter a new and growing field,” said Dean of Business and Technology Scott Anderson. “We have seen that interest wane in recent years.”
Anderson went on to say that while there are job opportunities for technicians in the wind industry in other regions of the country, the College was unsuccessful in recruiting students from those areas, largely because similar educational programs are readily available to potential students in those regions.
Begun in the fall of 2008, the program has produced 70 degree and certificate completers. Graduates have secured employment in the wind industry and related fields in 12 states and several foreign countries.
“We have been pleased with the accomplishments of our Wind Turbine Technician graduates,” said Anderson. “Recently, much of the local employment opportunities available to them have been in the high-demand field of industrial maintenance technology.”
Anderson pointed out that the College’s Mechatronics degree, begun this past fall, will continue to provide pathways to employment in the industrial maintenance field, and that many of the more marketable skills gained in the Wind Turbine Technician program will continue to be delivered through the new Mechatronics program.
All students currently pursuing the Wind Turbine Technician degree are enrolled in the final semester of courses and will have the opportunity to complete their program in May of this year.
“The College has introduced a number of new programs in the last two years based on student demand including Criminal Justice, Environmental Science, Hospitality Management, Mass Communication, Mechatronics, and Phlebotomy,” said Director of Marketing and Community Relations Pete Willging. “The College continues to focus on growth in areas where there is student interest and community need.”
“The decision to discontinue a program is never taken lightly,” said Highland President Tim Hood. “Enrollment trends, associated costs, market outlook and student interest are all taken into consideration when evaluating a program’s viability. This is an example of how we are responsibly and carefully allocating College resources in ways that will best serve the needs of the College district.”