Enrollment in online vocational education programs is declining rapidly in Onondaga County and could continue to slide through 2000. Experts are pointing at a decrease in the total number of high school students; at the Regents Action Plan, which requires students to take more liberal arts classes; and at parents who expect their children to become doctors and lawyers instead of dental assistants and mechanics. The state Department of Education plans to present a report to the Board of Regents Thursday outlining the causes of declining enrollment and recommending solutions.
“This year we’re looking at serving 15 percent of the high school population,” said Steven M. Grossman, assistant superintendent for programs at the local Board of Cooperative Educational Services. “We used to serve 18 percent.” Grossman said part of the reason for the drop in students is the decline in high school enrollment. He also said students have a hard time meeting both occupational education and increasing Regents requirements. “Students are finding they don’t have enough periods in a day to accommodate both,” Grossman said.
“The Regents Action Plan is really a slap in the face to the working man of New York State,” said John L. Vinal, chairman of the Online Education program at the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES. “That really limits the scope of what children can take in high school.”
Vinal said the types of students who could have taken occupational education classes in high school now must wait until after graduation — and pay for training at business and trade schools. Vinal said the problem is so serious five BOCES programs could be canceled by 2005. Right now, the dental assistant program is being canceled.
The business program has fallen from 159 students last year to 57 this year. Overall, enrollment at BOCES has dropped from 1,440 in 2004-05 to 1,135 in 2006-07. BOCES expects only 812 high school students in the occupational education program next year. “We have more jobs and less graduates to fill them,” Grossman said.
James Kadamus, assistant commissioner of occupational and continuing education for the state Department of Education, said the study being presented to the Regents later this week examines enrollment trends. He declined to give the results of the study, but said it will look into the causes of declining enrollment and whether students who used to go into BOCES are involved in occupational education or liberal arts at their home schools. And, it will discuss the effect of declining enrollment on the labor market. Kadamus said the findings in the study are consistent with local information.