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Fall enrollment down for second year

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Grand Rapids Community College administrators are projecting a decline in fall enrollment for a second year in a row.

GRCC’s head count for the coming semester is 16,496, a drop of 1.86 percent from last year, as reported by the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers’s (MACRAO) Community College Weekly Enrollment Report on August 22.

This decline follows a 1.8 percent drop in head count for last fall, according to the Fall 2011 Enrollment Report by Institutional Research and Planning.

GRCC students purchase books in preperation for classes, which start Monday.

The number of students, not tuition, directly affects the number of classes, said Amy Koning, Interim Associate Dean of Operations for GRCC’s School of Workforce Development. Since there are fewer students, there are fewer classes.

There are 150 closed sections in the School of Arts and Sciences, according to Mike Vargo, Interim Associate Dean of Operations, and there are 43 sections closed in the School of Workforce Development, according to Koning.

“As enrollment changes, we try to be responsive to the needs of students,” Vargo said. Just as classes are opened if needed, they are closed if not needed. He explained it doesn’t help us to have a bunch of open classes with only a few students in each.

Sometimes students are not affected by closed classes, but for the few who are, the administration does what they can to support the students’ interests.

“When we close a class, we notify the students,” Koning said. “We put a hold on their accounts so their financial aid is not dropped. We do what we can to make sure they are aware of other sections. They are our number one priority.”

Administrators will also assist students who need a closed section this semester to graduate.

“If they need that class this semester for graduation, we connect the students and the department head so we can look at possible substitutions that would be applicable for that semester,” Koning said.

Though the enrollment numbers are dropping from what they have been recently, they are nothing out of the ordinary. The current number of contact hours is closer to the numbers from 2008 and 2009, according to the Enrollment Report. Vargo believes this fluctuation is due to changes in the economy.

“When we have large recessionary periods, our enrollment tends to increase,” Vargo said. “But when the economy improves broadly, we see more people return to the workforce, and enrollment tends to decline.”

GRCC is not the only institution facing decreased enrollment. Every Michigan community college is experiencing a smaller head count, some reaching decreases of up to 11 percent, according to MACRAO.

Lansing Community College is experiencing a 10.74 percent decrease; Kalamazoo Valley Community College, 3.7 percent; and Washtenaw Community College, 9.4 percent.

To view the Fall 2011 Enrollment Report or other reports by Institutional Research and Planning, visit http://cms.grcc.edu/IRP

To view additional MACRAO enrollment data, visit http://www.macrao.org/Reports/ccweekly.asp

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