To the editor:
A new semester has started at North Shore Community College, but for one popular career program, this could be the last semester. Students are being turned away from NSCC’s Cosmetology Program for the fall, and three faculty members have been told they’re losing their jobs. It is the first program at the college to fill when registration opens. The only post-secondary Cosmetology Program in the state, it enrolls 40 students each semester with long waiting lists for openings. And it’s no wonder. Serving students from Newburyport to Revere, graduates pass the certification test at a rate of 99 percent, and virtually 100 percent find employment in the field.
NSCC inherited the program when the Essex Aggie post-secondary division merged with the college in 1999. Started in 1956, it is the only post-secondary cosmetology program in the state. This program, and the similarly threatened Culinary Arts Program, have very specific facility needs, which have been housed in Aggie buildings while NSCC has searched for space. But the new technical high school is expanding on the site, and the old Aggie buildings are being demolished this summer.
The college has been searching for space to house Cosmetology and Culinary Arts, but with no specific funding, and with complicated state requirements, nothing worked. A company called Higher Ed Partners, which had relationships with other community colleges, stepped in with a plan to rehab a building on Union Street in Lynn to house the programs with a deal to somehow split the fees. But after two delays, and despite promises from HEP, the deal fell through.
Workforce development is an important charge the state has put on community colleges. But these programs are often complicated and expensive to run, and funds to start and maintain them are severely limited.
The fact that NSCC needed to work with a private company points to serious flaws in state funding. Investing in Massachusetts’ students doesn’t lead to short-term profits. If workforce development is the state’s agenda for community colleges, then it is vital that the state invests money and provides emergency support for these programs.