NEW CASTLE —
Betty Tillia has nurtured the practical nursing program at Lawrence County Career and Technical Center for more than two decades.
The adult program, located inside the vocational-technical school on Phelps Way, opened in 1968 and has graduated hundreds of men and women who have gone on to successful careers in nursing homes, hospitals, doctors’ offices, urgent care clinics, emergency rooms, surgical centers and other medical facilities.
But a continued decline in enrollment and student retention rates has caused budget figures to slide into the red.
During the past two years, the program, which subsists on tuition, has operated at a deficit, with the career and technical center supporting it.
Now Tillia is looking for new ways to boost revenue so the program can repay a climbing debt to the vo-tech school.
While the national student retention rate average is 68 percent, the retention rates in the nursing program have ranged from 34 to 35 percent during the 2011-12 school year to 54 to 56 percent for the 2010-11 year.
NOT MEETING QUOTA
Fifty students are needed per year to break even, said Tillia, the program’s director. There are 41 students enrolled this year, but a question is how many will remain in the program.
In the past few years, the quota has not been met because of economic times, Tillia said. Thus, the nursing program has not broken even. It owes the career and technical center more than a half-million dollars in rent and operational costs, and the debt has been growing.
At its March 21 meeting, the joint operating committee agreed to give Tillia until June 30, 2014, to come up with funds to meet the program’s obligations to the school.
The program operates under the umbrella of the career and technical center, and is a line item in the school’s budget, explained Chastity Williams, business manager. The nursing program’s typical annual obligation to school is around $50,000.
She added that as of February, the nursing program had repaid about $17,000 of its outstanding debt. It still owes $526,159.