Big Bend enrollment down

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MOSES LAKE — Enrollment dropped at Big Bend Community College at fall quarter, and enrollment also is down for winter quarter. What to do about that was a topic of discussion at the regular meeting of BBCC trustees Wednesday.

“It (enrollment) is down quite a bit” in winter quarter, said trustee Stephen McFadden. The final enrollment for fall quarter was the equivalent of 1,926 students, 7.7 percent lower than fall 2016. Preliminary results for winter quarter show a drop of about 4 percent, when compared with winter quarter 2016.

“It is. We know that enrollment is cyclical, and we’re in a down cycle right now,” said Bryce Humphreys, BBCC’s vice-president of learning and student success. Traditionally enrollment drops when the college district’s economy is good, and currently unemployment is at three-decade lows. (The college district includes Grant and Adams counties, and part of Lincoln County.)

“We can’t stand idly by and wait for (enrollment) to recover,” Humphreys said, a view echoed by BBCC president Terry Leas. “There is a sense of urgency because of enrollment trends and the fiscal implications for the future,” Leas said.

“It’s not only recruiting new students, but it’s also retaining the students that we have,” Leas said.

College officials are looking at ways to recruit more students, Humphreys said. That includes attracting more graduating high school seniors as well as people who are employed currently. College officials also want to keep students that are already at BBCC. “They stay one more quarter to complete (a degree) versus dropping out before they complete, it’s a win-win for everybody.”

In college as in K-12 education, state funding is driven by enrollment. McFadden said he expected the regional economy to remain strong, and college officials should take that into account when making enrollment projections for 2018-19.

Humphreys said college officials do plan to take that into account. College funding is based on a three-year average of enrollment, he said, which helps reduce some of volatility.

Linda Schoonmaker, vice-president of finance and administration, said basic support funding shouldn’t be affected for the 2018-19 academic year, according to current information from the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. “But the following year would be a different story,” depending on enrollment throughout the community college system statewide, Schoonmaker said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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