SCCC Takes Steps to Address Enrollment Challenges
Joe Denoyer - October 3, 2017 8:17 am
Seward County Community College’s official enrollment figures, released Sept. 29, show a drop of 181 students from the previous year, a change that’s no surprise to college administration.
“The numbers line up with our awareness of where students are vulnerable, and steps we’ve been implementing for the past two semesters,” said college president, Dr. Ken Trzaska. “It’s not easy to put a positive spin on any drop, but this kind of transparency is part of our commitment to accountability, and the right thing to do.”
SCCC numbers on the 20th day of the current academic year show 1,746 students enrolled, a decrease of 181 (or 9.39 percent) from one year ago.
The college’s office of data and research noted the main two factors appear to be fewer Seward County students concurrently enrolled through Liberal High School, and a newly-implemented program on campus that seeks to track “no show” students who enroll but do not attend classes during the first three weeks of the semester.
“That’s a deliberate choice on our part,” noted Trzaska. “In the past, many colleges had a laissez-faire approach to these no-shows, until the six-week mark. At SCCC, we have chosen to intervene earlier, in order to serve the students better.”
As for concurrent enrollment of high school students, the college has taken a similarly pro-active position. Following significant staff changes at both institutions, SCCC recently established a fresh approach at LHS. College outreach coordinator Mike Bailey has worked with LHS counseling staff to set up an on-site SCCC office to answer student and parent questions, offer placement tests, and offer hands-on help to enroll.
“With 1,300 students at LHS, and four full-time counselors, it’s a lot to expect each counselor to provide college enrollment assistance to 300 or more students,” said Bailey. “This is one way for us to help meet that need.” Throughout the year, Bailey will bring deans from the various college divisions to LHS to talk with students and help them get a clearer sense of the possibilities for early college work.
Director of Admissions Bert Luallen also commented that his office has recently added two staff members to assist with recruiting and admissions counseling.
“Both these folks are Seward grads and have a real affection for the school, and they’re from the area,” he said. “Seward serves communities across five states, and that means a lot of driving to make those personal connections with graduating seniors.”
One encouraging trend is an increase in the number of students ages 25 to 39. The total number of students in this age group increased by 20 over the past year’s time.
“This reflects our commitment to community needs, and our fundamental role as an entry point for people who have not been able to access higher education before now,” said Trzaska. “Ultimately, for every student in this age group that we see enrolled, we know a household is likely to be seeing positive changes.”
Across the state, community colleges saw a total decrease of 1,502 students, with 11 of the 19 logging a drop in numbers. State universities seemed to hold even overall, though four of the seven enrolled fewer students.
“These ups and downs are typical,” said Trzaska. “For us, the most important issue is that we continue to find ways to partner with our students and help them succeed.” Trzaska added that he is “really proud of the collective effort” the SCCC has expended to assess student and community needs, improve the College’s ability to meet those needs, and develop a fresh approach to enrollment management as one of the 2017-18 “Mover” priority projects.