11/27/11 — WCC fall enrollment drops after record spring

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WCC fall enrollment drops after record spring

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 27, 2011 1:50 AM

Wayne Community College officials are blaming a lack of hope for a drop in enrollment number for its fall semester. And now, they are considering phasing out several programs where the numbers are the lowest.

Only a few months ago, the college had the highest number of students enrolled for the spring semester in its history, bringing a similar distinction when the rolls were called at graduation.

College officials explained that until this semester, the trend had been upward -- reflective of the economic downturn as job-seekers gravitate to vocational courses or additional training.

In 2008, fall enrollment was 3,519, climbing to 3,721 the following year, to an all-time high of 4,004 in the fall of 2010.

Fall numbers for this year showed a slight drop-off, at 3,692, Dr. Kay Albertson, president, told the board Tuesday night.

"Last year we really did hit the target," she said. "We were excited and delighted."

She and her staff have spent the past six months studying the trend.

"Enrollments are down. They're not flat, they're just down," she told the board. "I talked with you in September about some of the reasons we're down. The students have lost hope.

"They have come into the training programs for specific job skills but the jobs aren't out there."

Several programs are showing very low student enrollment, she said. Programs like the teacher associate section of early childhood education, which has dropped from an enrollment of 35 in 2009 to 18 last year and five students this year. That is reflective of the state cutbacks of those positions, Mrs. Albertson said.

Her staff is looking very carefully at where the declines are, she said. Some program sections have already been phased out, she added, as the number of students dwindled.

Decreases have also been felt beyond the curriculum classes, she said.

"Obviously we have had decreasing numbers in our high school program," she said, explaining that the state did a revamp of dual enrollment programs, resulting in a decline. "We think we're going to pick that up again because of the Career and College Promise program.

"I think we're going to see a pickup of the enrollment in those programs."

Likewise, there have been fewer students coming on campus to take supplemental programs or classes, such as welding or English literature.

"Because of the money, people aren't even able to do that," Mrs. Albertson said. "It's a cumulative effect because of the economy."

Current numbers, though, are comparable to where they were a few years ago, she said.

"We're not disheartened," she said. "Obviously we want people to be trained but we want people to have jobs, too."

Meanwhile, the first round of registration for the spring semester just wrapped up. More than 2,600 have pre-registered to take courses that start in January.

"Most of the time the spring numbers are down from the fall semester," Mrs. Albertson said. "We'll just have to wait and see. We're in the waiting game right now.

"We're going to have some ebb and flow with these programs. We're looking at other programs. That's what you do -- you take some out, put in others."