While enrollment for the fall is predicted to be down slightly compared to previous years, those numbers are due to changing trends more than a sudden drop in enrollment said Planning and Research Executive Director Stu Harvey.
“For a variety of reasons, students will enroll either early or late,” Harvey said. “For the past several years students were enrolling earlier and earlier. This year, they seem to be enrolling later.
“That makes the comparison with the prior year look like we’re losing more students than we have. It’s catching up … after the Fourth of July is when a lot of people come in and sign up.”
Harvey said his department also is seeing a trend toward fewer credit hours per student.
“That can indicate [that] students have jobs and are cutting back from full-time to part-time. So it’s really too early to say what the numbers are going to be for fall enrollment at this time.”
President Paul Sechrist said the strengthening economy is definitely a factor in enrollment numbers.
“When the economy weakens people are not working as much, as there are fewer opportunities for employment. So enrollment in colleges, especially community colleges, increases,” Sechrist said.
Worries in recent years that student numbers would grow faster than OCCC’s available capacity also have subsided somewhat, Sechrist said.
He said while the college is still watching that situation closely, the pressure has lessened for now.
Harvey said capacity is not just about the number of students the college is able to house but also making sure classes are available at the times students need them.
“There are certain times in the day when we don’t have the classrooms we need,” Harvey said. “But the real issue is availability of adjunct faculty to teach certain courses during the day.
“If you have adjunct faculty, they’ll have another job either in the private sector or at another school,” he said. “And they may not be available during the times students want to take classes, with the peak period that students want to take classes being between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.”
Sechrist said, despite all that, he encourages prospective students to enroll.
“Most of the new jobs being created [require] education beyond high school,” Sechrist said.
“In fact, the jobs that require associate of applied science degrees … are growing at a faster rate than those that require a bachelor’s.”
Sechrist said one of the services he believes puts OCCC ahead of other colleges is the amount of free help offered to students.
“We have a huge number of labs and tutoring services,” he said.
“Students who start out at OCCC and go on to other colleges come back and tell me, ‘I never realized how much support there was.’
“You go to another college and services like our math lab or our comm lab are offered by grad students instead of dedicated tutors, and you have to pay them.”
Sechrist said the variety of labs is also unusual for a community college.
“We have a dedicated engineering lab, a dedicated physical sciences lab. We have a cadaver lab, which is almost unheard of at a community college.”
But, Sechrist said, students who do choose to enroll should be prepared for the commitment.
“College is not easy.
“It takes dedication and a lot of time outside of class. A student might have to go to take their tests in the Testing Center instead of in class.
“A student might be coming from high school and think they can get most of the material they need in the classroom and not need to study on their own time,” he said.
He said while the support the college offers is free, “students have to make the time and effort.”
“Learning is fun, but the fun of learning requires a student to make the commitment to do the work that makes it fun.”
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