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COVID-19, employment opportunities contribute to ACC enrollment dip, officials say

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena Community College Fine Arts instructor Brian Schorn shows off a drawing done by student Monroe Baldwin that was featured at the An Evening with the Arts exhibition last month. Although ACC has seen a recent decline in enrollment, the art program is seeing an uptick in students.

ALPENA — Alpena Community College started its 2022 spring semester Monday with approximately 1,300 full or part-time students enrolled.

According to ACC President Don MacMaster, enrollment is down from a year ago in the same semester.

MacMaster said total enrollment credit hours are down 5.3% and the total headcount is down 6%. This also includes ACC’s Oscoda campus.

“We are currently covering all the bases of recruiting students,” MacMaster said.

MacMaster said he believes there are three factors contributing to the decline in enrollment.

MacMaster said the first factor is COVID-19. He said that some people are just tired of it, others fearful and some still financially strained from the pandemic.

The second factor, according to MacMaster, is that businesses are hiring.

“Employment opportunities are plentiful right now,” MacMaster said.

He said some people are migrating into the workforce instead of going to college. Some are taking fewer classes so they can work as well, MacMaster said.

He said that the third factor is tied to a decline in K-12 enrollment, something that’s been a long-term challenge for Northeast Michigan schools.

“It’s the long-term demographic challenge that has been going on for years,” MacMaster said.

He said ACC works with K-12 schools in 15 districts and, across these districts, enrollment is dropping slightly every year.

“This provides for a smaller pool of college students,” MacMaster said.

Despite the decrease in enrollment, MacMaster said ACC has seen an increase in enrollment to its Fine Arts program since the hiring of Brian Schorn as the program director.

MacMaster said ACC is doing everything it can right now to recruit students and fill its classes, including offering financial incentives, such as government financial aid, as well as grants and scholarships.

The Dual Enrollment program and Early College program are two more ways that MacMaster is recruiting high school seniors into ACC. These programs allow qualifying students to attend high school and college simultaneously and attend classes at ACC before high school graduation.

Despite having fewer students, MacMaster said ACC does not have the staffing issues that have plagued many businesses and organizations during the pandemic.

“We don’t have any issues with staffing,” MacMaster said. “We are currently staffed appropriately and they tend to stay. People like working at the college.”

MacMaster said for now ACC will continue to use its current strategy of offering quality education to its students.

“We will continue to deliver good quality higher education and see where we are when the pandemic moves on,” MacMaster said.

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