Community, faculty discuss Seward’s future


Brianna Rich

Brad Bennett hosted a town hall meeting on March 24 to talk about the future of the campus and enrollment. Bennett has hopes that these meetings will continue, and will grow with more student and community involvement.

The recent success of Seward County Community Colleges Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program led college administrators to question what else can be added to improve the campus. This program, according to Brad Bennett, SCCC president, has “exploded” and will only continue to grow with future job opportunities. 

Bennett hosted a town hall meeting March 24 in the Showcase Theater to discuss future programs, admissions rates and the opportunity to create a better campus. Community members and students alike had the opportunity to ask questions and comment.  

Bennett opened the meeting with a statement of gratitude to those in attendance. 

“First of all, thank you for coming out here tonight. This is a much better crowd than what I thought would be here, which is awesome,” Bennett said to an estimated 30 people in the audience.  

Improvement both in physical campus and what SCCC can offer students academically/socially was a goal Bennett shared. Seward has launched a new strategic plan that will have focus groups consisting of community members and the board of trustees. The goal is to have a plan in place for improving the campus by September. 

The dean of industrial technology, Amber Jones, expressed that being able to be quick in the technology industry to promote jobs will help Seward to become a more thriving community. Jones thinks that if there was an expansion to the industrial technology campus then it would meet the needs of the growing job market. (Brianna Rich )

Amber Jones, dean of industrial technology, reported to the group that she sees improvement through expanding the industrial technology campus to meet the needs of the growing job market. 

“We have to grow. Part of that is going to be meeting the needs of the industry with automated technology for production, sustainable energy and programs like that,” Jones said. “Being able to be nimble in our industry to promote jobs—which brings more people—will help us become a more thriving community.” 

Bennett pointed out that one weakness Seward has is enrollment, much like the rest of the state. 

“So there are 19 community colleges in the state of Kansas. In 2016, they had roughly 126,000 students in that sector,” Bennett said. “Now, today we have about 104,000. So, we’re down about 18% as a sector. When we talk about enrollment, that’s not only a Seward County Community College problem, it is across the sector.” 

The administration is trying to see how they can improve enrollment. Some ways of doing this might be adding sports teams — like soccer, cross country and eSports — to updating the website and making it more accessible to prospective students. 

Director of admissions, Eric Volden shared that Seward’s average for enrollment is 45%. Volden also sees the website as a top priority right now because students need an easier way to navigate the online applications. (Brianna Rich )

Eric Volden, director of admissions, said he sees the website as a top priority. The main need is to make it easier for students to “navigate as far as our online applications are concerned.” To Volden, the sense of community at Seward is what keeps the SCCC enrollment yield percentage higher than the state average.

“Our yield rate for getting students to apply and actually enroll here at the college is well above average. The state average is about 33% or so, Seward sits at 45% close to 50%,” Volden said.

The past few years have hindered town hall meetings because of the pandemic which stopped them from happening. Bennett is hopeful these meetings can continue to grow with more student and community involvement. For him, it will get to the point where we are talking more about what the community wants.

“I think it will get to the point where they are more involved and they will bring more comments, questions and concerns that will help us grow and create that vision of who we want to be,” Bennett said. 

Other topics covered included:

  • Refurbishing campus by changing carpet, painting walls and creating a schedule for continually making cosmetic updates. 
  • The success of the tutoring programs at SCCC.
  • Seward’s involvement in high schools around the area.
  • International students helping in the community. 
  • Involvement in the Adult Learning Center.