News Staff Writer
ALPENA - Alpena Community College Board of Trustees discussed a report from president Olin Joynton about enrollment continuing to decline at the college. Preliminary entrollment figures for the Spring 2014 semester continue the trend of a 12 percent decline in both headcount and credit hours. Nine other Michigan colleges have reported double-digit declines, with only two making gains.
"We are like almost every other community college in the state in continuing to decline," Joynton said. "The decline started a few years ago just about when the economy started to approve. This is the downside of an upside. More people couldn't find work and went to school three years ago when our enrollment peaked ... they are now able to find employment and feed their families. That is all good, and ACC has to fit the community and adjust to the ups and downs of these trends."
Joynton said that the 11 to 12 percent reduction in continuing students is more significant than in other categories, influenced by departure of students achieving a certificate or degree, or meeting their goals for attending ACC.
"We have a 40 percent graduation rate, which is just about as high as any community college gets in the country," Joynton said. "We continue to be highest in the state with that figure. What 40 percent means is that 40 percent of the people who start a degree or certificate programs finish in three years for a two year degree. That rate of graduation is wonderful. What it entails, however, is that instead of students dragging out their completion and coming back next semester, they are done and finished."
In order to help increase enrollment, the college is aiming to target for new students to replace those who have completed their studies at ACC. Joynton has been working with staff to come up with additional means to help bring more students to the college based on the programs offered.
"We have conceived a strategy of doing everything we can to attract people from out of the area, especially to the unique technical programs," Joynton said. "That, we believe, will enable us to overcome the demographic trends which point to fewer people and fewer younger people of the typical age to go to college. The college has to be inventive and put some extra effort into smart recruiting that will enable us to reverse these trends."
In 2013, the board passed a budget revision due to the fall semester's 12 percent enrollment decline, and extended the same decline assumption for the spring semester, so the budget was prepared for this preliminary enrollment decline.
"We hoped for less decline this semester but ended up with the same," Joynton said. "When the board revised the budget they proceeded on the assumption of another 12 percent decline in the spring semester. At least in this situation, we have aligned our budget and controlled our expenditures so that the 12 percent decline we have now does not run us into a problem."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.