Many students at Grand Rapids Community College received an email last week, prompting them to register for classes if they haven’t already. While many appreciate the friendly reminder, GRCC’s administration is also doing this as a way to hasten students to sign up for their Winter classes. Class enrollment is currently down by 5.3 percent compared to winter of last year, and that has a direct effect on how many adjunct faculty GRCC can hire, and consequently, what classes are offered from semester to semester.
Eric Mullen, GRCC’s Associate Dean of Enrollment Management & Financial Aid, isn’t unsympathetic toward students’ busy fall schedules.
“There’s a lot of weird little anomalies and things that go on in that time frame that can make it kind of an up and down rollercoaster enrollment period,” he said, referring to holiday breaks and final exams happening in the midst enrollment and tuition due dates.
However, outside of the students struggling to wrap up their fall classes and sign up for winter semester, Mullen sees this drop as a continuation of the trend seen at the beginning of Fall semester.
“There’s nothing really changed in the marketplace that we weren’t really aware of before,” he said, again referring to shrinking high school graduation class sizes and the end of state supported re-education for unemployed adults.
“We see that our age is trending younger,” Mullen said. “so again, it just validates that we knew that federal money and state money that was helping retrain workers and returning adult students is gone.”
But despite the decline of enrollment, Mullen seems more optimistic than concerned.
“This is not shocking to us,” he said. “…our business and finance group has taken some precautions to make sure that we have some stability in our budget so if we do have lower than anticipated enrollment numbers we are still going to be healthy and fine.”
However, the weekly reported numbers are far from final, and often swoop upward as classes begin in January.