Diesel engine mechanics program could be moving to LRCC

BERLIN — White Mountains Community College will suspend its nursing program for a year while the college restructures it to respond to concerns raised by the N.H Board of Nursing about below average licensing exam results.

In addition, N.H. Community College System Chancellor Ross Gittell confirmed that the system is seriously discussing moving the popular mobile equipment technology program from the Berlin facility to Lakes Region Community College in Laconia.

The college said it will not accept a new class of students in its associate nursing program in the fall of 2014 while it restructures the curriculum to better align the program "with the demands of the profession and improving the consistency of documented outcomes." New students will be accepted into the program for the fall of 2015.

WMCC President Katharine Eneguess said the decision to institute a one-year hiatus was a difficult one. She said the move was taken to address concerns raised by the N.H. Board of Nursing, which placed the program on conditional approval in June. In a release, Eneguess said the action will allow the nursing faculty and college leadership to devote the resources needed to revamp the program. She said the needs include designing strong pathways to baccalaureate nursing programs and improving licensure scores of program graduates, which Eneguess said last met national and state benchmarks in 2011.

Gittell last week said the college system is discussing moving the mobile equipment technology program to Laconia. The program teaches students to diagnose, service, and repair diesel-powered trucks and equipment. Gittell said the discussions are generated by the desire of the program's industrial partners to have it more centrally located. He said the program is at less than full capacity because potential students do not want to travel as far north as Berlin. The program currently has 26 students including 10 freshmen and 16 seniors. Last year the program had a total of 34 students.

Gitell said the program is also losing significant money, which he described as over $100,000 annually.

He said it is possible part of the program would remain at the Berlin campus.

"It might not be a question of moving the whole program," he said.

Gittell said his office is providing analysis of costs and benefits but the final decision rests with the board of trustees. The legislature will also be involved since it would have to approve a capital appropriation to build a facility at Laconia to house the program.

In the minutes of the board's Oct. 3 meeting, Board Chairman Paul Holloway said moving the program from WMCC will not occur until the system has a capital appropriation from the state.

With enrollment down at WMCC, Gittell was asked how the loss of the program would impact the Berlin facility. He said he thought it might improve the college's viability by removing a program that is losing money. He stressed that the board is very committed to maintaining both the Berlin and Littleton facilities.