The college experienced an increase in headcount enrollment this year, while credit hour enrollment decreased, according to the fall census released Sept. 20.
While the 0.03 percent increase between fall 2015 and fall 2016 may seem minor, it’s actually a turnaround for the college, according to Paul Kyle, dean of student services.
“Across the nation, most colleges are lucky if [enrollment is] up at all,” Kyle said.
One of the biggest factors in enrollment is the economy. When the economy is bad, enrollment rises because fewer jobs being available tends to bring more adults back to school.
In order to achieve the college’s goal of a two percent increase in headcount enrollment each year, the college implements strategies such as the new metro rate for students who reside in the 640 and 641 area codes in Missouri. This caused an increase in over 200 students from the metro area.
Johnson County residents account for 76 percent of students attending the college this fall. Rebecca Reynolds, a sophomore at the college and resident of Johnson County, chose the college over other institutions because it was easier, more affordable and close to home.
With the rise in headcount enrollment, the student population is noticeably more diverse. Minority enrollment has increased by 165 students since fall 2015, and accounts for 25 percent of total enrollment this fall.
According to Kyle, the only effect the rise in headcount enrollment has on students is parking.
Kyle said it can be difficult to find qualified faculty members as well.
“It’s more of a challenge on us than on students. Across the nation, finding qualified math and science teachers in order to maximize classrooms is a challenge,” Kyle said.
While headcount enrollment is up, credit hour enrollment is down. That means there are more students enrolled at the college but they are taking fewer hours. This has more of an impact than the increased headcount because the college is funded by the number of credit hours in which students are enrolled.
“Headcount quite honestly is just for bragging right[s] to say we have ‘X’ amount of students here,” according to Pete Belk, program director of admissions. “If all those students are only enrolled in one credit hour, we’d have to shut our doors.”
In an attempt to increase credit hour enrollment, the college plans on offering more online classes. The number of students enrolled in online classes is increasing at a rate of 20 percent per year.
“Students are trying to figure out, okay, is there any way I can get some time in my life?” Kyle said.
Student Arthur Newby found that it was difficult to get a convenient schedule that fit in with his daily life. A majority of the classes he needed to take were scheduled at the same time. He hopes that the college will offer a wider variety of class times throughout the day.
The college also intends to take further steps to make education more convenient for students in the future by offering more classes at off-campus locations and shortening 16-week courses so they can be completed in a more time efficient manner.
“Historically, education has been really slow to make these kinds of changes and our biggest priority is making sure the quality of instruction is not compromised in any way,” Belk said.
Click here to read the full report from the college: 2016 Fall Enrollment Tracking