The State of Maine reported last fall that its community college enrollment increased for the first time in five years. Maine is not alone in boosting community college enrollment. North Carolina also increased its community college enrollment.
Administrators often point out that the economy heavily influences enrollment at community colleges. Maine and North Carolina show that this outcome is not certain. Maine attributes the rise in its two-year college enrollment to increased recruiting efforts, new programs and text messaging. North Carolina says community college enrollment increased thanks to increased recruiting efforts, new programs, better academic counseling and additional money from the state to support high-demand programs, like health care, manufacturing and information technology.
If you’re thinking that there is some commonality in these states’ approaches to increasing community college enrollment, you’re right. Clearly, both states – with nearly full employment – were able to find more students just by looking for them.
These states have a more centralized administration of their community college systems, but that doesn’t mean their methods can’t work to attract more students at WCC. If the administration wants to claim that student enrollment is going to drop, then they should take some concrete steps to reverse that trend.
Like recruiting. And offering new programs.
One of the new programs that’s in high demand in Maine is plumbing. Perhaps its time for WCC to figure out how to leverage its trade partnerships to meaningfully increase the local enrollment numbers. Offering skilled trade programs for students (rather than instructors) seems like it could benefit everyone. Such programs would increase WCC’s enrollment while producing more skilled trades apprentices – who are in high demand and low supply.
Flat enrollment isn’t a given when community colleges work to reverse the trend.
Photo Credit: PFNKIS, via Flickr