By Kayla Tucker – Editor-in-Chief
As of Count Day last week, this semester’s enrollment is down 4 percent from last year’s numbers. The total headcount for students this semester is at 14,160, whereas last winter’s headcount was 14,757. According to Grand Rapids Community College’s Enrollment Management Scoreboard, billing units and credits (are) behind last year by 6.5 percent and 5.8 percent respectively.
Although it is not ideal, GRCC President Steven Ender is not worried.
“It’s certainly not a good thing that we’re continuing to lose students,” Ender said. “We always lose students from fall to winter so that’s certainly not unexpected. I would be more interested with how we do with our fall enrollment.”
Ender said he is waiting for a “drop off,” where GRCC’s low enrollment will hit a rock bottom and then numbers will stabilize from then on. One factor involved in enrollment is how well the economy is doing.
“Our enrollment’s always going to be inverse to the health of the economy,” Ender said. “If we’re in recession more students come to GRCC.”
Ender said the college is seeing fewer students around the age of 24 because they most likely came to the college during the recession and now have jobs.
“One of our bright spots, I believe, for growth is dual enrollment from high school students and middle colleges,” Ender said. “There is certainly a real sense of support from school districts and parents and legislators for students to earn college credits while they are in high school.”
The budget is not a concern, Ender assured.
“When you’re running a $106 million budget, if you’re off by $100,000 (to) $200,000 in revenue from tuition, you make that up when you have two employees retire early,” Ender said.
Ender said the college is seeing a large amount of students registering during the last four weeks of registration, and this is a concern to him because enrollment rates shift radically the month before each semester.
“We’ve got to get students to register earlier,” Ender said.
In a plan to maintain retention and get students to register earlier on, Ender said he’d like to see full-time faculty in degree programs such as music or nursing advising students one-on-one. Other students not in a program seeking to transfer through the Michigan Transfer Agreement could see an academic counselor at the Counseling & Career Center and utilize MyDegreePath.
“All of these programs of study that lead to a very specific outcome, I really would love our faculty to be taking more of those students on for advice and counsel,” Ender said.
Students applying to a program would be immediately assigned a faculty member to counsel them specifically. According to Ender, the faculty member’s pay would not change as this is already something outlined in their job description.
“It’s in the faculty contract,” Ender said. “Advising is one of their expectations and they know that they’re evaluated on advising.
“Right now we do a lot of one day open house sort of things and I’m asking people to get more personal and intentional with their work.”
Ideally, Ender said he would like to see advising centers around campus and see faculty members teaching a section of CLS100 and advising all the students in that class specifically.
Currently, the college is working with the faculty on developing these ideas.
“Which faculty do the work is subject to discussion,” said Faculty Association President Fred van Hartesveldt. “Exactly what the advising work will be, who does it and when, all that will be apart of the conversations.”