Recruit & Retain (Great Bay Community College)

Great Things Come in Small Packages

Great Bay Community College (GBCC) in Portsmouth, NH, is small, with an enrollment under 2,500, but its value to students, the workforce and the community far exceeds its size. Cutting-edge degrees and certificates; excellent faculty; affordable tuition; small class sizes; extensive support systems; transfer agreements; non-credit options and high school, business, and community partners are just a few of the qualities that characterize Great Bay. There is something for everyone and everyone is welcome.

With campuses located in both Portsmouth and Rochester, GBCC is one of seven colleges within the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH). The college attracts students from the southeastern part of the state, northern Massachusetts and southern counties of Maine. In May 2012, the college celebrated the opening of their satellite campus, the Advanced Technology & Academic Center (ATAC), located just 20 minutes north of Portsmouth in Rochester. The new center was made possible through the support of a $19.97-million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration TAACCCT Grant and business partners in advanced manufacturing. This small but robust satellite campus brings to the area new opportunities for workforce development in composites manufacturing, as well as opportunities to take courses leading towards another degree or certificate. Great Bay is never idle, and it is this spirit and mentality that keeps enrollments growing.

Great Bay was recently cited in the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for being among the top 50 community colleges that experienced enrollment growth between fall 2011 and fall 2012. In fact, Great Bay was listed as number 24 for colleges under 2,500 students, showing an 11.9 percent change in enrollment for this period. Since that time, enrollments have leveled off at closer to five percent, but this growth, while relatively small in comparison, remains stable despite decreasing numbers of high school graduates.

The Growth of Transfer Agreements

Transfer agreements with a wide range of baccalaureate institutions have made starting at Great Bay highly desirable for many high school graduates and adult learners. But transfer agreements can be a double-edged sword when it comes to retention numbers. Many students leave prior to completing a degree. As agreements with four-year institutions grow, the number of students leaving for these colleges prior to graduation also grows. Recently, agreements encouraging the completion of an associate’s degree have emerged which, according to the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, increases the likelihood that students will also complete their bachelors’ degrees. Some of the transfer agreements also include scholarships for completion of the associate’s degree with a certain GPA.

Inviting students to start at Great Bay means the college has a responsibility to get them to their next point of entry, whether that is the workforce or the transfer institution. The philosophy at Great Bay is, “enroll with the end goal in mind” and “make the journey meaningful.” Admissions and Advising play a vital role in getting students accepted, tested, counseled and registered. Student Life engages them, the Learning Center supports them and the faculty challenges them. Everyone is dedicated to helping students advance as learners, as leaders and as emerging professionals. Students are encouraged to participate in student clubs and organizations, leadership academy, internships, tutoring and mentoring, college governance and, the newest addition, a college-wide event called SHOW (Students Highlighting Outstanding Work). The value of these engagement experiences is reflected in the networks students establish and the risks they take in moving beyond their comfort zone. Growth is the common element.

Continued Development

Looking to the future, Great Bay welcomes a new Student Success Center, which will bring new opportunities to the college, particularly in the way of athletics. Great Bay recently joined the Yankee Small College Conference (YSCC) and will start to offer men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. In addition, we continue to develop new degree programs designed to respond directly to industry hiring needs.

Through the continued development of relevant curriculum, partnerships with industry and a comprehensive approach to engaging and supporting students throughout their education, Great Bay Community College is well positioned to respond to CCSNH’s Chancellor Ross Gittell’s call to action: (1) to increase enrollments by an average of three percent per year over the next 10 years; and (2) prepare NH adults for jobs in the year 2025 that require 65 percent of its workforce to have postsecondary degrees. Great Bay is small, but it packs a big punch!

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

Sarah Bedingfield, Ed.D. is the interim vice president of Student Affairs at Great By Community College (

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