Officials at Northwest State Community College are predicting a drop in enrollment, and are taking steps to try to lessen the effects.
Thomas Stuckey, NSCC president, said college enrollment has been growing at a fast pace, but college officials recognized that the rate of growth was not sustainable.
Graduating classes from high schools in the region have been shrinking in numbers, meaning fewer potential NSCC students.
“How do we maintain our population, when our traditional base is getting smaller?” Stuckey asked.
Also, students are waiting longer and longer before registering for classes.
Since the college can’t afford to have a class for a few students, a scheduled class may be cancelled before the final registration deadline; then the class is not available when those who waited until the last minute want to sign up.
Plus, those who wait until the end of the registration period run out of time to get financial aid, and are shut out for the semester.
Stuckey said college offi cials need to get students registering earlier.
“Let’s close the sale,” he said.
In a Monday, July 23 email sent to college faculty and staff, Stuckey said his cabinet met Thursday, July 19, to develop strategies to increase enrollment, including ideas submitted by college employees.
“During the next four weeks, this needs to be the focus of the entire college,” Stuckey said in the July 23 email.
“We tried to identify roadblocks that are keeping students from registering, as well as places within the process where students may have ‘stopped out’ (dropped out of the registration process.)”
One of the tools to calculate college enrollment is called FTE, or full-time equivalent.
Stuckey explained that FTE is based on 30 credit hours. If three students each take 10 credit hours of classes, that is equal to one FTE.
In 2007, just before the nationwide economic downturn, the college had approximately 2000 FTEs. Just four years later, the FTE was over 3,000, a 50% increase.
But by the 2012 spring semester, that had fallen to about 2,700 FTEs.
As a state community college, Northwest State receives a state subsidy.
To calculate the subsidy amount, the Ohio Board of Regents calculates a Fiscal Year FTE, or FY FTE.
To calculate the FY FTE, regents take one-half of the full-time equivalent from two years ago, and then add half of the FTE from the preceding year.
So the regents’ FY FTE figures lag behind the actual FTE figures.
In 2009, the regents calculated the Northwest State FY FTE was 2,037.
In 2012, FY FTE zoomed up about 43%, to 2,916.56.
Subsidy Up, But…
Stuckey said while NSCC state subsidy payments are at record-high levels, the amount of money the college receives per full-time equivalent is down.
For example, in 2009, the state paid NSCC a subsidy of about $8.7 million.
Divided by an FY FTE of 2,037, that works out to $4,280.17 per FY FTE.
That’s the highest subsidy paid since 1998.
For 2012, the state subsidy was just over $9.2 million, the largest subsidy figure ever.
But divided by the 2,916.56 FY FTE, the subsidy worked out to just $3,154.61 per FY FTE, the lowest figure after 1998.
In other words, while the number of students, based on FY FTE, shot up 43.2% since 2009, actual per-FY FTE funding fell 26.3%.
NSCC had more students, but less money per student.
“So much money was put into a big pot. Everyone grew, but the pot didn’t grow,” Stuckey said.
Stuckey said Ohio needs to encourage enhanced education any way it can.
As the economy improves and people go back to work, they shouldn’t assume their present educational level is good enough.
Stuckey said people shouldn’t assume the economy won’t slow down again. They need to continue their education.
“Don’t stop,” he said.
The good news, Stuckey said, is more people than ever before believe in community colleges and the programs they offer.
“Ohio has an undereducated workforce,” he said. “We need to keep adding more skill sets to everyone’s resume.”