Most of Michigan’s community colleges have struggled with declining enrollment for most of the last decade. While there are different ways to measure an institution’s student population, taking steps to increase enrollment is essential.
Some community colleges increase enrollment numbers by increasing the number of dual-enrolled high school students. While this does put students in the classroom, this strategy may trigger unintended consequences – like making the community college less attractive to traditional students.
The current COVID 19 pandemic provides an opportunity to get more adult learners in community college classrooms. While no economic model is perfect – and few can predict recessions – a growing consensus suggests that we’re in recession right now. Recessions and recession fears provide reasons for post-secondary students to stay close to home.
In some cases, financial aid doesn’t materialize as hoped or expected. In other cases, the student’s preferred institution may not have issued an enrollment offer. Both cases provide an opportunity to entice more recent high school graduates to enroll. Additionally, students with “some college” may be unable to return to their university for fall enrollment. To continue making academic progress, community colleges can recruit these students to fill seats in their classrooms.
Recession also has a way of illuminating the need for more education for people in low-wage jobs, and for those who may have lost their jobs. Michigan also has an abundance of residents with “some college, no degree.” This population provides another opportunity to increase enrollment.
WCC’s administration should focus on recruiting traditional students. By focusing more closely on WCC’s educational mission – and spending less time dabbling in commercial ventures – the administration could take advantage of the shifting economic landscape to achieve both higher overall enrollment and improved degree completion rates.
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