CCC&TI not alone in enrollment drop

Feb. 20, 2014 @ 06:09 AM

Enrollment is down at most community colleges in the region, not just Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, according to information presented to the CCC&TI Board of Trustees on Wednesday.

The trustees are studying ways to cope with an expected $1.2 million budget cut for the 2014-15 school year that will result from the college's reduced enrollment. The college’s state funding is based in part on the number of students enrolled.

Spring-semester enrollment decreased at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine, Mitchell Community College in Statesville and McDowell Technical Community College in Marion, said Dena Holman, CCC&TI’s vice president of student services.

Enrollment at Wilkes Community College bucked the trend -- it is up approximately 2.8 percent, Holman said, an increase officials attribute to the college’s recent adoption of programs that allow high-school students to enroll in classes there.

CCC&TI enrolled 3,697 curriculum students in spring 2014, down from 4,172 in spring 2013 and the lowest spring-semester total in at least six years. The spring 2014 number is up slightly from the last report made to the board of trustees in January, and the college will continue to enroll students in four- and eight-week mini-mester courses throughout the spring.

Officials have attributed the drop in enrollment to changes in the regional economy, not any specific issue at CCC&TI, and lower enrollment at colleges throughout the region would support that theory. Everything from previously unemployed residents going back to work to a lack of funding to help students pay for transportation and child care can affect the college’s enrollment, Holman said.

“It’s not the lack of desire to go to school, it’s the funds,” she said.

When trustees were updated on enrollment in January, executive vice president Mark Poarch said he thought a declining number of high-school graduates was contributing to enrollment declines, at least in some parts of the state.

But that’s likely not the case in Caldwell County, based on numbers presented to the board of trustees on Wednesday. The Caldwell County Schools graduated 866 seniors in 2013, roughly comparable to the 886 graduates in 2012, 908 in 2011 and 902 in 2010.

“We just need to do a better job of getting that high-school senior and showing them the value of the community college,” Holman said.

The majority of curriculum students enrolled at CCC&TI – 52 percent – are from Caldwell County, with 21 percent from Watauga, 7 percent from Catawba, 4 percent from Burke and 3 percent from Avery, according to the information Holman presented.

Thirty-three percent of those students are in college-transfer programs, while 20 percent are high-school students enrolled in college courses, 14 percent are in industrial programs, 12 percent in business programs and 7 percent health sciences programs. Eleven percent of the college’s enrolled students are health sciences applicants.