Enrollment: Learning from the Numbers

By Leo Washburn in News

Taking the good with the bad  can be a challenge. This is certainly the case as Clark College confronts the many facets of lower enrollment this year.

As of Sept. 11, the number of full-time students was down by 4 percent. Tim Cook, Vice President of Instruction, explained in the short term this affects which classes stay in place for the upcoming term.

There are six deans that are in charge of different areas of instruction and when numbers are low, they determine which classes get cut. “The goal is always 15-17 students in a class,” Cook said.

However, classes with low enrollment aren’t always cut. Cook said, “It isn’t as easy as saying the class only has 12 students; let’s cancel it.”

According to Cook, the deans ask if a class is offered only once a year, if students need it for their program, if it’s a primary class in a sequence, if the class was cut last quarter and many other factors before deciding whether the class gets cut.

They also look at the waiting lists to see if classes can be made available for those students.

Students often wonder why they are not allowed to add a class after the 10th day if they are able to catch up.

“It’s up to the instructor but we won’t get funding from the state for that student,” Cook said.

According to Cook, the final numbers the state uses in its formula to determine funding comes around the 10th day of each quarter. That day coincides with the last day a student can drop a class without a “W” or change the class to audit.

The number of students enrolled by that day, and particularly which classes they are enrolled in, determines what the state funding will be and what will be offered in the future.

As of Sept. 8 the number of continuing students is down 9 percent whereas the number of new students enrolling is up 10 percent.

“It’s actually good news,” Cook said. “We had the largest graduating class in our history last year, so many continuing students completed what they came here to do.”

Enrollment is consistently growing among Running Start and International students. As of Sept. 11, Running Start enrollment is up 14 percent from last year and International student enrollment has increased 66 percent.

Linda Calvert, Associate Director of Running Start, explained that the program is a huge success story for Clark.

“Parents think that free tuition is a very good price,” she said.

The program has been available since 1992 when there were 210 high school students enrolled. According to Shanda Diehl, Associate Vice President for Planning and Effectiveness, one in five students currently attending Clark are Running Start students.

These high school students have to work at the same level as the rest of the students in their classes. And they are doing so successfully.

According to information from last May, Running Start students are 12 percent more successful than Non-Running Start students in maintaining a GPA equal or greater than 2.0. They are nearly 30 percent more likely to continue from one quarter to the next and are six times more likely to complete their degree within two years.

Diehl said Running Start students are not included in the state funding calculations. Clark contracts with the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to fund Running Start students.

“OSPI funds at a significantly higher rate than just tuition alone,” she said.

It is not the full price that the state gives for the instruction of a full-time student, she said, but its more than just tuition alone.

International students pay full price for their education.

“If you want to know how much it actually costs to pay for a student’s education look at what these students pay,” Cook said.

This year a non-resident or International student pays $282.46 per credit hour. Washington residents pay $110.46.

“These numbers go out to the successful recruiting and partnership strategies we’ve done,” Diehl said. “The college is doing what it can to replicate those kind of partnerships with communities that can really benefit from higher levels of education.”

“We need enrollment because we need a budget to be able to serve the needs of our students. We are going to increase enrollment by building stronger partnerships within the community.”


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