The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees met Monday to discuss the college’s enrollment rate, communication and future.
During the work session, Donna Kragt, the Dean of Institutional Research, discussed major declines in Michigan college enrollment, noting that all but five community colleges reported a decrease in enrollment.
GRCC enrollment was down 4.5 percent during the 2017 winter semester compared to the 2016 winter semester.
Kragt presented data that showed that rural community college enrollment has gone up and urban community college enrollment is going down.
The amount of contact hours at GRCC is also decreasing. And the number of sections decreased by 53.
Meanwhile, online learning has increased. There was a 16 percent increase in distance learning classes taken compared to the year before. Overall, 29 percent of all students took a distance learning class in the 2017 winter semester.
Kragt provided data that showed that 26 percent of students are full-time students, which is decreased by 16 percent since last year.
“We believe that this is because people are taking on jobs full-time and because the students don’t want to face debt,” Kragt said. “They only take the amount of classes that they can afford to attend to stay out of debt.”
With a growing interest in distance learning, the college is in the process of hiring a new Distance Learning Director.
“Quality matters,” said GRCC President Bill Pink.“We have a good base for the distance learning classes. I need a person who can tell us how we can make it better.”
Distance learning has become a popular way of taking classes in recent years. Many lakeshore communities rely on GRCC’s distance learning program, but administrators say it has been hard to collect data about the quality and success of the students according to Pink.
“We have not yet identified what quality learning means and that is the biggest problem we have here,” said Trustee member, Bert Bleke.
Pink expressed that relevance and responsiveness is his main goal to improve the success of the school. Pink said that the school could monitor the student’s success by monitoring their learning and teaching, completion, equity and labor market outcomes.
Pink said he plans to present a strategic document about how he plans to move the college further to the board at the beginning of the fall semester.
Communication between the president and the board was also discussed in depth.
The main question raised was: “What is the communication process between the board and the executive position?”
“I believe that Bill should come to us with more ideas for the strategy, but I also believe that we all need to collectively strategize,” Trustee Bleke said.
The members played out a long process of connections and having questions forwarded to others. The board worked hard to refine the old communications policy to make the connections between the school and the board more efficient.
The board and president agreed that if a faculty member, student or community member had a question or comment, the question or comment would be filtered to the president. Later he would decide who to filter the question or comment to so that it can be responded to.
“I feel like our current policy is faced in the wrong direction, but I feel that our new policy is a move in the right direction,” said Trustee David Koetje.