Adult education classes across three professional career paths taught at the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center will end on June 30.

Citing a projected decline of $200,000 in this year’s revenue due to dropping enrollment – especially within the school’s two nursing programs – school administrators have decided to end all three adult, or post-secondary, career training programs when the current fiscal year ends in June. Of its three adult educational programs, nursing is the largest.

This decision does not impact technical training programs offered to secondary, or high school, students.  

The CTC offers two full-time post-secondary nursing classes that run for 12 months, starting in February and again in July, and a part-time nursing program that is taught over 18 months. 

Two other career fields, automotive emissions and inspections and forklift operations, are also available as post-secondary educational opportunities at the center, according to administrative director Andra Groller, but they will also close shop at the end of the school’s current fiscal year despite minor profitability. 

“Basically, this was meant to end for a variety of reasons,” said Groller, who was named director on July 1 after serving as temporary director beginning in March. “One of them is we took a look at the (nursing) attrition rate and as far as the financial aspect and we saw that we did not have the availability of funds to continue with the adult education program. Having to fund this program, the decision was made that we need to look at things, we need to restructure and we need to look forward.”

The decision to end the part-time adult nursing program’s new class in September occurred at a special meeting on Aug. 28 by a unanimous vote of the center’s board of directors that’s called the Joint Operating Committee (JOC). The JOC is composed of representatives of the county’s six school districts and their alternates. 

Ruth Ann Schlegel, chair, CTC’s JOC, said there are numerous factors that led to the end of the adult education program in Lebanon County.

Schlegel cited sagging revenue from the adult education program coupled with shrinking enrollment and not enough space for secondary students as major contributors. The end of adult programming will free space in that portion of the CTC for secondary programs, according to Groller.  

Explaining the finances of the adult education programs at the CTC and how it is losing money is a complicated process, according to CTC business administrator Tina Geyer, who said the center is in the red by $102,000 this school year through Jan. 31. (The fiscal calendar at the center aligns with the state’s and runs from July 1 through June 30.)

Geyer sent data to explain the deficit. LebTown requested financial information from 2018 through 2023. 

That information indicates a profit for the adult education programs each year except 2021-22, which was during the height of the pandemic. That year the center had a loss of $161,306. Revenue the other four years varied from a low of $77,043 in 2022-23 to a high of $297,636 in 2019-20.  

Along with those figures, Geyer also provided the following written explanation via email concerning those numbers:

The attached document reflects the operations of the adult education program over the last five years. Some things to note regarding the adult education enrollment over the last 5 years. The last time we started a full-time (July-June) program with a ‘full’ class was 2018-2019.  Enrollment has steadily dropped since that time. The last time that we started the part-time program with a ‘full’ class was 2019-2021. Enrollment in the part-time program has also declined since that time. February 2021 was the last full-time February – January program for PN (practical nursing). It was decided not to offer another full-time option when we could not fill the July-June program (lack of enrollment). There is also approximately a 50% attrition rate from the programs (for example if we start 50 students, only 25 will complete).

Also, the CTC has made cuts to expenditures over the last 5 years to adjust for the declining enrollment. The first cut was curtailing full-time February program offerings as indicated above. The CTC has curtailed staff in the program to also adjust for declining enrollments. In 2021, a full-time instructor retired and that position was not replaced. In June of 2022, the CTC furloughed a full-time instructor due to declining enrollments. In 2022-2023, the PN director position was vacant for 6-months. One of the remaining full-time instructors was acting as director as well as an instructor. Effective July 2023, the full-time instructor that was acting as director moved to that role full-time and we did not replace that teaching position.

That two-paragraph explanation was provided because, according to Geyer, the numbers don’t tell “an accurate story.”

“We did not lose money every year, however, we made cuts to the program so it trended with our revenue so that we did not have as much expenditure with our declining revenue,” she said. “So, yes, it looks like we did make money in those years but we made cuts. We’ve cut three teachers over the past couple of years to reduce our expenditures.”

Lebanon County’s career and technology center will shutter three adult programs on June 30. (File photo)

At the Sept. 19 JOC meeting, the board unanimously voted to retain $325,000 of the 2022-23 refund, or excess revenue, to defray the cost of the anticipated adult education shortfall of $200,000 for this fiscal year, according to Geyer.  

The adult education program currently has three full-time employees: two full-time positions in the nursing program – an instructor and a nursing program administrator – and a full-time adult education program director who runs all three adult education programs. Additionally, there are about 14 part-time instructors who receive an hourly rate to teach classes within those three adult education disciplines.

Geyer said the biggest expenditure for the adult programs is teacher union-negotiated salaries and benefits for the three full-time staff members at approximately $135,000 per person. Pay for the part-time instructors was set at $38 per hour for the 2023-24 school year, and those individuals are only compensated when they instruct a class. (LebTown enquired about the 2023-24 part-time compensation expenditure and was told it amounts to “roughly $29,000” so far this fiscal year.) 

Geyer said revenue for the adult education program is hard to calculate and is unpredictable since students who quit school are reimbursed a portion of their tuition fees, which are submitted to the CTC in four payments.

Tuition for the full-time nursing program, which costs about $18,000, is paid in four installments: First Level – $6,402; Second Level – $4802; Third Level A – $3,290; and Fourth Level B – $3290.

“It’s a guess when we put together a budget,” said Geyer about expected revenue. “We’re assuming X number of students are going to graduate, but it’s a crap shoot.”

Price said there were as many student applicants for the part-time program that was slated to begin last fall as there was prior to the onset of the pandemic.

“We had 47 applicants when the CTC decided to pull the nursing class,” said Mark Price, who has been a full-time nursing instructor since 2017. “It is shocking because the community needs nurses. It is going to push people to leave the county to pursue other opportunities and this decision is going to impact nursing homes, doctor’s offices and other healthcare providers.”

Price said he’s unhappy that past programming surpluses were not set aside to fund potential future shortfalls.

“Another one of the points of contention is that in the past the surplus for the program has gone to subsidizing or funding the community,” said Price. “We know that they have somewhat painted us as a program in jeopardy because the revenues haven’t been there since post-COVID. But in August we had a large class that was coming in and in a week’s time of them starting, it was announced that the program was ending.”

Price added this decision was not discussed with the staff prior to being announced. 

“No one said, ‘Hey, this is what we’re thinking,’” said Price. “This was a kind of green light, red light kind of thing. The level of transparency here has been nonexistent. This was an opaque decision. The nursing program was contributing something like $300,000 back to the school districts, but once COVID hit and enrollment declined, now it’s ‘You’re taking up space that could be better utilized.’” 

Classroom space at the CTC is at a premium, with Groller telling LebTown that about 200 students who wished to study there this year were turned away. She added the center was originally created to meet the needs of secondary students. 

“We will be restructuring our career and technical education as a whole,” said Groller. “We will look at the foundation, why we are here and that is for secondary educational programs, right? Do we foresee opening adult programs in the future, yes? Right now, however, we have a fractured foundation and we need to take care of that on the secondary side. We need to look at how our programs are being run. We are turning away up to 200 (high school) students looking for career and technical education, so that’s really important.”

LebTown asked Groller if the CTC was moving away from its mission statement since the education of adult students is mentioned in it.

The statement reads: “The Mission of the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center is to provide high school and adult students with the skill, knowledge, and understanding necessary to obtain employment, advance in careers, pursue postsecondary education and enrich their lives.” 

“No, not at all,” replied Groller. “We’re looking to strengthen our post-secondary program in the years ahead. And, yes, our mission statement does currently state that and that is reviewed every year with our comp plan. Our mission statement will actually be changing because career and technical schools must provide a comprehensive plan.”

Groller said the CTC has a committee reviewing its mission and vision statements. Those documents will be posted online once they’re approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. 

Groller also told LebTown the CTC is in the early stages of conducting an assessment of its programs via a feasibility study to determine its future needs and those of Lebanon County’s workforce. The CTC has put out a Request for Proposals for vendors interested in the project.

“We need to align with industry needs and we need to look at what those needs are in Lebanon County,” noted Groller.

“We do have a space issue there, so what do we do about that?,” said Schlegel. “The (feasibility) study is going to include all of that. I understand that the staff is looking at it right now and I understand that (their concerns) because it involves them, their jobs and the whole bit. However, with us, we’ve got to look at the big picture and we have to look at all of those factors.” 

Groller did not have a timeline for when adult education programs may return in the future.

Others have expressed a need for expanded adult education programs locally.

Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce (LVCC) recently released a workforce needs study that calls for an Advanced Training Center (ATC) to be built in Lebanon County for post-secondary educational opportunities. That study was conducted by Hanover Research who was hired by LVCC.

Read More: Workforce Needs Study recommends construction of Advanced Training Center

LebTown asked Groh if the CTC was a frontrunner given it has undeveloped space and the center would be an extension of its existing secondary programming.

“The original proposal was to put it on the site of the CTC, so that was already in there,” said Groh, referring to the original objectives provided to Hanover Research. “They already have, I think, 50 acres and their executive committee did approve that conversation to continue exploring it.”

Groller, who said she read the CTC’s information in the preliminary workforce study report but not the entire 100-plus page study, said she did not know that the center was considered a site frontrunner. 

“I can tell you that we did provide data for that study this past summer. They asked us, Hanover Research, did ask us some questions. What programs do we have? Different things like that,” said Groller. “But this is news to me.”

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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...


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