By Jacquelyn Zeman – Managing/News Editor
As of today Grand Rapids Community College officially has a 5.4 percent decline in enrollment compared with fall 2013 enrollment numbers.
Last fall there were 16,613 students enrolled in classes. Now there are now only 15,719 students enrolled at GRCC according to Communications Director, Leah Nixon.
The 2014 fall semester at GRCC started Aug. 25. Even though school started on that day, students were able to enroll until the end of the first week of school. On Aug. 18, a week before classes began, administrators announced at that time there was a 5.4 percent decline.
As of Aug. 18, 14,853 students were enrolled at GRCC. Administrators were expecting the number to grow slightly before the final enrollment count. Between Aug. 18 and the first week of school, enrollment increased by 866 students.
The total number of students enrolled in classes for this fall is 15,719. According to Nixon about 32 percent of the 15,719 attend GRCC full-time. The remaining 68 percent are part-time students.
As of Aug. 25 GRCC administrators were still being optimistic about the number of students that would enroll in the next week, however Nixon said administrators were not expecting to make up the enrollment shortfall.
“There is a couple of different reasons for the decline,” Nixon said. “Now that the economy is improving, more folks are back to work. Even if they are in school they are attending part time, instead of full time, so that also has an impact.”
“If you look statewide at community colleges in general, we run inverse to the economy,” she said. “If you look a few years back, enrollment soared because people were out of work, so they may have (been) seeking a new career path, they may have been seeking new job skills, participating in new training programs.”
Nixon also added that there are less students graduating from Michigan high schools.
“The pool of students that we are recruiting is smaller,” she said. “It is a combination of many different things that have changed enrollment for us.”
Enrollment for the fall last year was at 16,590. The most recent peak in enrollment was in 2010, when enrollment was at 17,870. The last time enrollment was this low was back in fall of 2005, when there were 14,798 students enrolled at GRCC.
According to Lisa Freiburger GRCC’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, GRCC is down 7.6 billing units this semester. They only thought they would be down two billing units going into the semester.
“At this point we are projected an additional, beyond what we budgeted, net loss of approximately $500,000 for the fall term,” Freiburger said. “This loss is not (because) of our reduction in expenses due to the need for fewer sections. Of course, as we plan for the entire fiscal year, we will need to take into account any additional loss in our upcoming winter semester.”
With the enrollment decline being expected going into the fall semester classes and some sections of specific classes were cut.
GRCC’s Associate Provost, Patti Trepkowski, said the school has to go through a process of cutting down sections of classes every year, regardless of how big the decline in enrollment ends up being.
“We always, no matter the semester, go through a process of section management to make sure we have enough students to run each class,” Trepkowski said.
“As soon as we know (enrollment trends), we try to predict what will happen in the classes. We look at what is happening right now, and we also look at what has typically happened with some classes in the past when it comes to enrollment.”
This story was updated on Sept. 11 2014