The students of Grand Rapids Community College are the heart of the institution, and are what make the school run. GRCC had an enrollment of 14,465 students at the beginning of the Fall semester of 2016.
The statistics are substantially lower than in 2010 fall semester when 17,920 students enrolled.
Lisa Freiburger, the Vice President of Finance and Administration, said that enrollment has gone down due to a variety of reasons.
“Mainly the economy is good… and many community college’s enrollment trends downward when the economy is doing well,” Freiburger said.
Generally, people will find work or take on more hours at work instead of going to school when the economy is trending upward. When the economy is not doing well, people often lose their jobs and return to school to attain the advanced skill set to advance their career.
This fluctuation happens on a “year-to-year basis,” Freiburger said. “We present a budget to the Board of Trustees, which we tend to have a projection of enrollment done in April, about a year in advance.”
According to Freiburger, the college makes 53 percent of its revenue from students in tuition and fees. The rest of what the college makes is from property taxes and from state funding. That state funding has been flat recently.
Per year, GRCC takes in an average of $108 million, which is most used for student services and constant advancement and renovation of buildings, structures and services. On average, $2.5 million of the $108 million comes from parking. $3.50 per exit for each student really adds up over the school year. The $2.5 million from parking goes toward the renovation of the parking structures, such as the three-phase renovation project underway on the Bostwick Ramp, which will be under construction for the next three summers.
Students and adjunct professors are the people most affected by the decrease. Students have a higher tuition cost, which was approved at the March board meeting. The tuition went up 1.8 percent for the fall 2017 semester to $113 per credit hour, which is up $2 from $111 last school year.
“A rise in tuition comes with the understanding of student needs,” Freiburger said. ”We try to keep any rise under 2 percent.”
For the adjunct professors, a lower enrollment would mean fewer class sections for them to teach, which means fewer jobs on a year-to-year basis for the majority of GRCC’s professors.
GRCC is recruiting students to attempt to raise enrollment by reaching out to high school students. The Enrollment Center, located on the first floor of the Main Building, is reaching out via email and over the phone to students that listed GRCC as a potential school on their American College Testing (ACT Test), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT Test) bubble sheets and on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.
“GRCC is also sending representatives to area high schools to try to show students that our school is a great option,” Freiburger said.
In regards to current students, “they are the best ambassadors for GRCC as a school,” Freiburger said.