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Incoming Elizabethtown College president plans for future

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Cecilia McCormick will be taking the helm as Elizabethtown College president in July.
Cecilia McCormick will be taking the helm as Elizabethtown College president in July. - (Photo / )

To continue attracting students, Elizabethtown College should beef up its programs in science and business, among other steps, according to the college's incoming president.

Cecilia McCormick is slated to become the first woman president of the 120-year-old college in July following a yearlong national search to replace outgoing president Carl Strikwerda.

Elizabethtown College has seen a drop in enrollment in recent years and has taken steps to find new ways to boost interest in the Lancaster County school as families grow wary of private-school prices.

Elizabethtown cut its tuition by 32 percent last year from $46,940 a year to $32,000 in an attempt to make an education at the school more appealing to parents who might otherwise eliminate the school based on cost.

The college currently has 1,634 graduates, a decrease from 1,822 in 2014. The college has remained stable in finances, according to McCormick, but the upcoming president said the school can combat further decline in enrollment by increasing the school’s master’s programs and finding ways to make the school more attractive to non-traditional students such as older adults.

“The traditional program, while we need to have that, we have to make sure there are more offerings for people,” McCormick said. “We are stable from a financial standpoint but if we have continued downturn for years and years, we won’t be.”

In the coming months, McCormick plans to develop a stronger understanding of what will make Elizabethtown stand out to prospective students. She said the school’s occupational therapy, biology and communications programs are thriving, with the occupational therapy major among the oldest in the country.

Strikwerda said the school has recently expanded its engineering and business programs and he would like to see McCormick continue to grow those programs. The school is also working on implementing a new physician assistant master’s program, a doctoral program in occupational therapy and a well-being initiative centered in the school’s fitness center.

McCormick has previously worked in administrative roles at Thomas Jefferson, John Hopkins and Widener universities and served as an attorney in Philadelphia for 10 years. According to Strikwerda, the breadth of McCormick’s experience in education makes her a good fit for the job.

“President-elect McCormick has had a widely varied career at different kinds of higher education institutions, including partnering with businesses and communities off-campus,” Strikwerda said. “She will bring an impressive range of experience with health care, real estate, emergency planning, and financial management to our relationships with businesses and communities in central Pennsylvania.”

The incoming president said the school could benefit from increasing its offerings in health sciences, but that she will need continued partnerships with employees and stakeholders in the county to truly see where jobs are needed.

“I am coming from an institution where health sciences is a big part of the education so I think there’s an opportunity there and that’s where a lot of jobs will be,” McCormick said. “This is not something I can decide on my own. I need people who have been here who understand what is going on.” 

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Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis covers health care and Lancaster County. Email him at ipashakis@cpbj.com.

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