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Summer enrollment down

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As Grand Rapids Community College prepares for the upcoming summer semester, faculty and staff will be doing so with a decline in student enrollment.

In the report by the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (MACRAO), it reported that the head count at GRCC is down 16.57 percent, with a total of 6,277 students enrolled over the summer, and the overall change in credit hours is down 18.53 percent.

“We have been trying to reach out to returning students, informing them that they may have Pell Grant money left over,” said Eric Mullen, Student Life Director. “Fall and Winter semester were down, so we are anticipating that again.”

Mullen explained that the college is doing what they can to try to draw students to the school but also said that state and federal funding is gone for adults who are looking to return to school.

“We are putting yard signs on campus, doing calling campaigns, and putting out Facebook ads asking students to be a Raider for the summer,” Mullen said. He explained that because of this campaign, the college is seeing an increase in guest students.

According to GRCC’s website, a guest student is any student who takes classes at GRCC and is enrolled at another Michigan college or university.

With enrollment down so much for the summer semesters, Associate Dean for Operations Mike Vargo explained that the college will have to close some classes.

“We will definitely be closing classes for the summer,” Vargo said. “Rest assured however.  If some late enrollment surge presents itself after we do this, we will happily open additional sections to meet student demand.”

“We cancel sections of classes that have the smallest impact on students,” Vargo said. “If we happen to have two poorly enrolled sections of one class that meet at the same time, we just combine the enrollments and create one class. Barring that, we tend to cancel the classes that have the fewest number of students already enrolled in them and that have open seats available in other sections that the affected students might move into.”

Eric Mullen said one reason for the low enrollment is that there just aren’t that many student prospects out there.

“There is a dip in students coming out of high school,” Mullen said. “There just aren’t a lot of students coming through the pipeline.”

While the low enrollment will affect the classes students can sign up for, it will also affect the faculty at the college.

“With such a sharp reduction in enrollment numbers, our need for sections is reduced, and there will be a corresponding reduction in the number of courses available for faculty to teach,” Mike Vargo said. “While we try to spread the reduction as evenly as we can, it is quite possible, and probably even likely, that there will be adjunct faculty who will be teaching fewer sections than they have taught in the past.”

The report by MACRAO stated the summer enrollment numbers for 16 community colleges around Michigan.

Of the 16 colleges, only Henry Ford Community College saw an increase of 2.63 percent compared to the previous summers’ enrollment numbers.

Of the 15 colleges that were seeing a decrease, St. Clair Community College was seeing the largest decrease in enrollment at 23.8 percent.

As for the fall 2012 semester, there is still time before officials will know the numbers.

“We aren’t sure about the fall 2012 semester yet,” Mullen said. “We won’t know until open registration begins on May 8.”