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story.lead_photo.caption Students walk across campus on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville.

BENTONVILLE -- The Northwest Arkansas Community College's president expects the college will be OK financially despite a drop in enrollment.

NWACC reported it had 7,538 students enrolled for college credit Sept. 8, the 11th day of class, compared to 8,649 students on the 11th day of classes in 2019. That is about a 12% decrease.

Todd Kitchen, vice president of student services, said Monday the college had 7,521 students enrolled. Kitchen said it was too early to make projections for spring enrollment.

"The goal is to get out of the deficit," he said.

Evelyn Jorgenson, president, said she expects enough state money and money from property taxes to come through to help offset the money lost from tuition and fees.

"We do feel though we can very easily make it through this difficult time," she said Monday during a Board of Trustees meeting.

"The main thing I want to tell you is yes, enrollment is down, but not to be concerned about us not being able to pay the bills," Jorgenson said. "We can certainly do that."

Tuition and fees, however, are important because they make up a little more than half of NWACC's budget, Jorgenson said.

Students who live within the college's district must pay $75 per credit hour, according to the college's website. Other in-state students must pay $135 per credit hour. Tuition costs $150 per credit hour for out-of-state students.

The college stopped in-person instruction in the spring because of covid-19. Kitchen has said about 90% of classes offered this fall are online. The only ones offered in person are ones that cannot reasonably be taught online.

The college reported earlier this month that 4,000 additional students are enrolled in other programs through the college such as workforce development and adult education.

Marshall Shafkowitz, executive director at NWACC's culinary school, Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food, spoke to the board Monday and said Brightwater capped its enrollment this fall for safety reasons. Enrollment is down roughly 25%, he said. Brightwater has about 205 students, while it usually has between 250 and 275, he said.

Brightwater students attend some in-person classes. Class sizes have been cut to allow room for social distancing, Shafkowitz said. Students wear masks and face shields during class.

Shafkowitz's hope for the spring is to resume the school's community outreach recreational education series. The series includes classes designed for people with no experience as well as ones designed for professional chefs looking to further their technical skills, he said. Brightwater is also set to work with the Boys & Girls Club of Benton County on a series of cooking classes intended for people ages 12-18, granted it can conduct the classes safely amid covid-19.

Alex Golden may be reached by email at [email protected]

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