As a first-generation college student, Jeanna Perlman always realized how important higher education is to help people better their lives.
The new permanent director of the Community College of Philadelphia Northeast Regional Center has spent her adult life helping to make graduation obtainable for students. She served as interim director at the insistence of Kathy Mulray, former director of the college who retired in 2020 before being recently named as permanent director.
Perlman grew up in the Northeast and is a graduate of St. Hubert High School. She graduated from Chestnut Hill College and ended up working as its accounts payable coordinator. However, after being a stay-at-home mom for her two children for a few years and ready to return to work, she wanted to take a different path.
“I asked myself: what job was I most happy at?” Perlman said. “I knew I was happy working at the college.” So she started to apply to colleges and settled at CCP Northeast in the records and registration department.
She had the drive to help students realize the resources that they could access to attend classes. “I really wanted to work in the financial aid office,” Perlman said. “I wanted to help students get the money that they needed to go to school.”
Perlman then moved on to the role of coordinator, where she was in charge of making certain operations at the college ran smoothly and worked under Mulray. She has worked at the college for 10 years now.
After Mulray retired, Perlman became the interim director. Then in March, schools shut down because of the pandemic, and before she had a chance to settle into the new role, she was faced with transitioning students and staff to virtual learning.
But the closure gave Perlman a chance to start a new program called the Drop for Non-payment Outreach Initiative.
“With my background, working in records, registration and financial aid, I have a lot of background with students and assisting students,” Perlman said. “I’ve worked closely with the bursaries, which is now student tuition services, so they asked me to manage this campaign.”
With this program, she reached out to students who were at risk of being dropped for non-payment and found a way to get them back in class. Students are in this position for many reasons, from unfamiliarity with the process and resources available to them to just needing help paying their tuition.
Perlman said she and other volunteers reached out to thousands of students during the program via around 23,000 phone calls. As a result, many students were able to stay enrolled due to this initiative.
“It was so great to be able to help people help students in a time where everything was just falling apart, so it was so rewarding to be able to do that,” Perlman said.