Priority One

Academic Innovation and Holistic Student Support

NSCC seeks to improve the consistency of excellent student life outcomes by getting better at what it has always done: innovate academically and take care of students.

Environmental scanning data suggest that developing holistic strategies to support student credit completion should be central to NSCC’s strategic plan. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, NSCC student credit completion is on the decline, particularly for Hispanic and Black students. At the same time, providing flexible, skills-driven educational opportunities are especially important to attract learners in NSCC’s primary service area, who are trending older.

2020 US Census data estimates project over 154,000 adults ages 25 and over without a college degree (associate’s level or higher) in the eight most heavily represented NSCC student hometowns. Those potential students represent a fertile market opportunity for NSCC to attract and retain through expanded flexible academic scheduling and support services.

Given the recent uptick in NSCC’s noncredit student population, increasing the conversion rate of noncredit students to credit programming is one strategy to address declining credit student enrollment.

Expansion of noncredit to credit pathways will be a key component in NSCC’s strategy to respond to national trends. As more students seek short-term options in academic programming to pursue immediately available job opportunities, NSCC will heavily promote this opportunity and make it easier for students to access and accomplish the transition from noncredit to credit options.

Clearly articulated pathways between noncredit and credit programming via Credit For Prior Learning vehicles will remove barriers to connecting the skills and knowledge gained in short-term programming with the traditional certificate and associate degree credentials that many employers ultimately require for further advancement.

The college’s NCAL project is the first stage of addressing the mundane but very real bureaucratic and systemic barriers — policies, procedures, different software systems, etc. — that prevent students from easily moving back and forth between noncredit and credit education, according to their current need and over the course of a lifetime of learning.

Creating equitable educational opportunities aligned with high paying jobs that meet urgent regional needs is central to this strategic priority, especially as they align with students’ own stated goals.

Creating academic Centers of Excellence that prioritize the industry sectors most in need of talent and that offer our students the best opportunity for social mobility will be a key tool to this end. The Centers will include active involvement of local employers in the sectors they serve. For instance, local hospitals and community health centers are helping NSCC to expand its Bertolon Health Care Simulation Center of Excellence.

The Life Sciences Pathways Center of Excellence the college plans to develop on its Danvers campus, utilizing a combination of public funding and privately raised capital, is another example of this approach and will enable the college to offer expanded programming to attract and serve new students while simultaneously meeting urgent regional employer needs.

Increasingly, employers are requiring students to have internships or other experiential learning as part of their academic portfolios.

Building strategic partnerships with local employers, community-based organizations, and alumni will give NSCC students the opportunity to participate in these experiences that provide meaningful, real-world skills and social networks to connect them with high demand jobs on the North Shore after college.

Developing deeper ties with the universities to which students transfer will also assure that NSCC students reach the educational and professional goals with which they came to college. NSCC and Northern Essex Community College are already engaged in work to facilitate transfer with Salem State University by creating a position for a shared counselor who facilitates the transfer process for students.

Environmental scan data confirms that NSCC must do more to support the needs of low-income students, including supporting non-academic food, housing, child care, and technology needs, if student retention and completion are to improve.

Partnering deeply with community-based organizations who have the resources and expertise to support these non-academic needs is central to the plan, and in alignment with the NUE (New Undergraduate Experience) and Strategic Framework for Support Services for Student Success recommendations.

These partnerships will assure NSCC students get the support for non-academic needs that can get in the way of school. The childcare and early education partnerships NSCC is pursuing with both the Demakes Family YMCA in Lynn and Pathways for Children are examples of such deep collaboration that will enable the college to attract students who have previously felt unable to take advantage of an NSCC education due to lack of support.

Taken together, data points to the need for NSCC to develop flexible and holistic educational strategies to expand student credit completion and retention, address equity gaps, direct additional funding towards teaching and learning, and to develop community partnerships to meet students’ social, financial, and academic needs.

NSCC is poised particularly well to address these needs as modalities of instruction are shifting, and as students expect to attend classes in a variety of ways. Innovations such as Open Education Resources (OER), micro credentialing, Competency-Based Education, Hyflex courses, and Spanish language courses for Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) are already underway at NSCC.

Examples of current initiatives underway include: hyflex course pilots allowing students to take classes in person or remotely simultaneously, and the opportunity to earn a Bachelor’s degree in business on NSCC’s campus through a partnership with Quincy college. In each of these current initiatives, NSCC seeks to meet students where they are, educating the whole student by recognizing their unique needs.

These existing initiatives are a hallmark of what NSCC already does well. The opportunity to expand and respond to how students learn is deeply connected with the programs likely to see the greatest growth, namely STEM, manufacturing, health care, and social sciences. NSCC will need to address the widening tech gap in order to ensure equitable access to these innovations.



  1. Degree Production in Fields Associated with High Demand Occupations (DHE) (lag)

  2. Number of new programs/courses developed or offered in high demand occupations, as wells as in new modalities, including new to campuses (lead)

  3. Number of students participating in new programs in new modalities (lead)

  4. On-Time Program Completion (i.e., intermediate milestone of credit accumulation success) (lag)

  5. Fall Undergraduate Enrollment Headcount (lead)

  6. Expenditures Devoted to Student Instruction and Support (lead)

  7. On-Time Credit Completion (HEIRS) (lag)

  8. Non-Credit to Credit conversion rate (noncredit students moving into articulated credit programming (lag)

  9. Headcount (lead)

  10. Credit program completion (lag)

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