By Sean P. Mulhall – Editor-in-Chief
Following a recent trend, Grand Rapids Community College administrators are projecting a 5 percent enrollment decrease for the winter 2015 semester.
With the final head count yet to be tallied, administrators are keeping a close eye on the numbers.
“We don’t have our official numbers as of yet,” said Tina Hoxie, Associate Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “However we have been experiencing … a decline similar to what we were for our fall semester.”
The college monitors enrollment very closely each week and knows what areas the enrollment numbers are declining in. The two major problem areas are re-enrolling students from the fall semester and enrolling new students.
“We do see a smaller number of new students for winter, compared to fall,” Hoxie said. “The institution takes in about 80 percent, if not more, of their new students in the fall semester than what happens in a winter semester.”
More time spent working means less time in the classroom. The dropping numbers could also be due to the fact that students that were full-time before now have less time for school and are only taking classes part-time.
“We were in a recession and when the economy gets stronger our enrollment goes down,” Hoxie said. “In three words; jobs, jobs, jobs. Students are working and as a result I think we’re finding that carving out time to go to school is more difficult for them.”
Other reasons beside the lower unemployment rate include smaller numbers of high school graduates coming to community colleges and fewer federal aid programs being offered to students as a result of the improving economy.
GRCC is taking strides and working proactively against the dropping enrollment numbers.
“There are many strategic initiatives,” Hoxie said. “One specific (initiative) is personalized phone call campaigns to actually talk with students that haven’t re-enrolled as a retention effort … talking with students about selecting a major, staying on the path of what their intended goal is, promoting the fact that your degree is the difference… students that are close to finishing, encouraging them to take their classes that will put them to the finish line.”
While the numbers are a concern for GRCC administrators, Hoxie says it’s not time to panic yet.
“There’s been support from the faculty as well around encouragement of retention of our students,” Hoxie said. “Retention is a very important piece to our enrollment.”