WSCC board reviews declining enrollment numbers

SCOTTVILLE — The West Shore Community College Board of Trustees expressed some concerns at Monday’s meeting about a continued trend in declining enrollment numbers at the college.

West Shore Community College dean of students Chad Inabinet makes a point when giving the winter enrollment report at Monday's Board of trustees meeting.

West Shore Community College dean of students Chad Inabinet makes a point when giving the winter enrollment report at Monday’s Board of trustees meeting.

WSCC dean of student services Chad Inabinet reported to the board that the overall headcount at the college for the winter semester dropped 90 students or 7.1 percent from this time last year. The final 2018 winter semester head count stands at 1,096 students (818 part time and 278 full time).

Those numbers have declined steadily since the 2013-14 academic year when the college had 425 full time students and 993 part-time students .

“There are some numbers that we expected, as I have been showing some decreases in the enrollment across the state and country,” said Inabinet. “However, we do see a little bit less in the dip of our credit (6.9 percent decrease) and contact (6.1 percent) hours. We have seen that happen in the last few semesters as our credit and contact hours are not dipping as much. The contact and credit hours began to change to more positive in 2015-16, and I think that is attributed to the college scheduling of classes.”

Inabinet did point out that dual enrollment numbers fell slightly by 3.9 percent, but the positive was that it was after a record high in the winter of 2017. This year there are 275 dual enrolled high school students which is the second largest number of students.

“Those dual enrolled students make up a 25 percent portion of our student body,” said Inabinet. “So we continue to do more work with our local high schools in offering dual enrolled courses in their high schools.”

Inabinet said another positive is that online course enrollment saw an increase of 12.8 percent going from 747 students in 2017 to 856 students this year.

However, the area that drew the most concern from the board was the report that in comparison to the MACRAO small eight community colleges in terms of their enrollment and credit hours. West Shore finished eighth out of eight schools in each category even though the highest in head count was Kirtland Community College with a 4.2 percent increase and Glen Oaks in credit hours with a 6.5 percent increase.

“I do want to point out there is very little difference in percentage points between most of the schools,” said Inabinet.

The same was the comparison where WSCC ranked next to last in head count and credit hours of all 28 colleges, which prompted trustee Jim Jensen to question what was being done about it.

“The bottom line is we have the worst record in the state and have we reached out to find why students are not enrolling here?” said Jensen.

Inabinet said that he would look into it, and bring back an answer to the board.

President Scott Ward commented that WSCC followed a different path than the other schools with the enrollment increase during the recession and the decline that followed.

“I think our numbers are lagging behind others and other colleges saw their drops in previous years,” said Ward. “Just as others saw big increases in 2008 and 2009 we were a year or two behind them then and are the same in the decreases.”

Trustee Mike Ennis expressed the idea that maybe a tuition decrease might be in order to stimulate the enrollment numbers.

“That being said, we need to do something instead of just spiraling backward,” said Ennis.

Board vice president Richards Wilson added that maybe being more proactive in drawing students was in order.

“We had retention issues that were addressed and maybe we need growing issues,” said Wilson.

Ward pointed out to the board that they are working on initiatives that they feel could raise enrollment numbers. One of those is student housing; WSCC is one of only two community colleges in the state that do not offer it, so it limits the areas from which to draw students.

“Our dean of occupational programs Christy Christmas has been working with the Wexford Missaukee Intermediate School District on offering dual enrollment courses and because of that connection, Cadillac Schools has reached out to see if we could offer dual enrollment classes over there,” said Ward. “So I think it is looking at expanding our borders and looking at things differently. We also will see in two years the Manistee Commitment Scholarship program kick in that should bring in more students.”

Ward and Inabinet said they would keep the board posted.

Monday’s meeting also saw the naming of Christman Construction to serve as the construction manager for the renovation and addition project to the Technical Center building project. Christman’s bid was for $188,790.

The board also gave its approval to a five-year contract with Rehmann Robson of Grand Rapids to handle the auditing services for the college. The bid they made was for $246,500, which is a total cost for all five years of work.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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