11/28/12 — College's enrollment hits new high

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College's enrollment hits new high

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 28, 2012 1:46 PM

The message of Wayne Community College -- preparing students for the work force -- is "coming out loud and clear," its president told the college board of trustees on Tuesday night.

"We're doing a doggone good job of recruiting and marketing this college, probably the best we have ever done," said Dr. Kay Albertson. "But you don't just recruit. We have got to hold onto them. And we have pushed that message as loud as we can."

Mrs. Albertson reflected on the latest enrollment numbers for the fall semester.

"We have the second highest enrollment this fall semester in the entire history of Wayne Community College," she said. "We're only 53 students short of our record, which was back in the fall of 2010."

In the curriculum program for the fall, the college had 3,963 students enrolled, she said.

"These are numbers that I think truly represents how hard this staff works, not only to recruit students in but to retain those students and that's really a major part of our efforts," she said.

She credited quality professors and retention efforts as just two of the reasons the college continues to serve the community well, even during rough economic times.

"A lot of it has to do with our messages and the services to our students so that they have the ability to complete. That's what we want. It's all about completion," she said, explaining that "completion" is the latest buzzword. "We'll be talking about that more at our retreat (Feb. 1)."

She praised staff and professors for guiding students through not only the typical college courses but the "stackable certificate programs" that enhance the other offerings by providing additional credentials for students to take into the workplace.

"We're the best bang for the buck," she said.

Programs showing steady increases include health and health-related programs as well as engineering and manufacturing technologies, the latter which had an enrollment of 178 students in the fall, up from 129 the previous year and 118 in 2010.

The agricultural and natural resources program is also growing, reflective of the county's "No. 1 industry, agriculture," Mrs. Albertson said.

"We made a commitment a number of years ago that at Wayne Community College we are not going to give up these agriculture programs," she said, noting that the community college is one of only four in the state that have held onto the offering. "We said, no, that would not suit Wayne County."

Board member Gwyn Wilson asked why the enrollment figures continue to be so high and whether the slow economy continued to draw students in for additional training.

"I always think that the economy has an effect," Mrs. Albertson replied. "This year, and in all of the N.C. community colleges, we're one of the few that have seen an increase this fall semester. Most of them are flat or have decreased."

"It isn't all in one category," pointed out board member Keith Stewart. "Most of them (enrollment numbers) are across the board."

College transfer courses continue to be a big draw, Mrs. Albertson said.

"A lot of these students come to us, they do not know a lot of what they want to do. They know that their next step would be a transfer to another institution," she said. "Some are in a holding pattern because they want to go into a program like nursing, but they have got to get transfer credits, and that's where a lot of high school students go."

The high school program at WCC, and options for area high school students to obtain college credit, is in transition so the numbers can be a bit confusing, the president pointed out. That is due in part to the fact that some programs, like Huskins, dual enrollment and Learn and Earn, no longer exist.

"Currently, we have 491 high school students from Wayne County Public Schools that are taking a course at WCC, that are enrolled so that they're scattered throughout all these programs," she said. "We really have an issue, not just WCC but community colleges in general, with how we're coding (categorizing) our high school students.

"Out of those 491 high school students, 269 are our early/middle college high school, 269 this fall semester. We have 148 of that number who come from the School of Engineering and are taking various courses."

Mrs. Albertson said she was pleased with the partnerships that have been developed to accomplish this, and said that the public school system and its innovative programs are gaining "rave reviews," both statewide and nationally.

Seventy-four high school students are currently involved in the college transfer "Pathways" and the president said she is optimistic about the direction the program is going.

"For next semester, when we provide for you the high school numbers, we're going to do it in a different way," she said. "We're working hard on that. But we're pleased that we have 491, almost 500, students from Wayne County Public Schools that are participating with us."