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OCC's first Black president to focus on boosting enrollment

Warren Hilton, named the first Black president of Onondaga Community College speaks at a welcoming event, May 20, 2022.
Scott Willis
Warren Hilton, named the first Black president of Onondaga Community College speaks at a welcoming event, May 20, 2022.

The first African American president to lead Onondaga Community College plans to improve recruitment and retention of students at the two-year school.

About half of OCC's undergraduate students don't return after their freshman year, and 75% of students over an eight-year period either transferred or dropped out of the school, according to the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard. (That is, however, not much different compared to other community colleges in the region.)

Incoming president Warren Hilton, due to take control July 1, found success building up enrollment at Kutztown University, a four-year public institution in Pennsylvania, but Hilton said it requires a multi-layered approach.

"It's really a collaborative effort, understanding what students need to be successful," Hilton said at an OCC welcoming event Tuesday. "And when I say students, I mean in the broadest sense students from whether they're 15 or...whether they're 50."

Hilton said that work starts with addressing needs outside the classroom, especially for marginalized students.

"Putting initiatives in place that would help that particular population of students dealing with things like food and housing insecurity, transportation needs, childcare needs—all of those things that can potentially derail a student from achieving their goals," Hilton said.

The focus on an individual student can bring a larger community benefit, he said.

"We know that if we're successful in helping students retain and achieve their goals in terms of their education, they're going to stay right here in Onondaga County and they're going to contribute to the economy and the well being of this area," Hilton said.

OCC's current president Dr. Casey Crabill is retiring after nine years with the college.

Tarryn Mento is an award-winning digital, audio and video journalist with experience reporting from Arizona, Southern California, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Tarryn produces in-depth and investigative content for WAER while overseeing the station's student reporter experience. She is also an adjunct professor at Syracuse University.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at