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Declining enrollment signals change for MMCC

By JANET SOWLE, Editor

Michigan has suffered an out-migration of population. Funding has dried up for No Worker Left Behind and other training programs. Grades K-12 class sizes are smaller, resulting in fewer graduating high school seniors. Students paying their own way to college are financially strapped so they are taking fewer credit hours.

All of these factors have led to a decrease in enrollment and fewer credits being taken by students. Fewer students plus less credit hours add up to fewer class sections and a smaller number of faculty and staff.

Higher education throughout Michigan is experiencing enrollment declines. As of early August, 26 of the 28 community colleges had reported an average of 6 percent fewer students enrolled and an average decline of 7.52 percent in credit hours for this fall.

“What we know about community colleges, and this is not quite as true at universities, is that students, a lot of times a chunk of them, wait until right before classes start to register,” said Matt Miller, MMCC’s Vice President of Student and Community Relations.

As early as April 2011, fall classes were being planned for this fall. Adjustments are made along the way. Compared to last year, there is a decline in the number of times classes are being offered. All of the same classes are being offered, however there are not as many time options. For example, last fall there may have been 20 different times a class could be taken. This fall there may only be 14 sections.

Students who haven’t registered yet shouldn’t think they won’t be able to get into the classes they need. Miller encourages students to talk with an advisor if they are unable to get into a class they need. Advisors can arrange for room to be made for extra students in classes, Miller said, and if enough students are in need of the same class, additional offerings of that class can be created.

Additionally Miller points out that because so many students register right before classes, the early numbers don’t necessarily give an accurate snapshot of enrollment.

“The snapshot we get here (in the early August numbers), while useful for different purposes, isn’t always a good predictor of where we’re going to end up at the end of the semester,” Miller said. “The average of being 7 percent down and 6 percent down may end up being different. And (enrollment) may end being higher.”

Declines in enrollment impact MMCC more than other community colleges as 72 percent of revenue comes from tuition and fees. According to Carol Churchill, MMCC President, the administration was aware of the pending decline and was able to hold it off about a year longer than other community colleges and universities. Still, cuts eventually have to be made and it is never easy, especially in the college’s close-knit community.

“It’s painful,” said Churchill. “It is a painful process because it impacts people. Most of our expenses are around people. We’re a teaching institution; that’s what we do. There’s never a decision made that I don’t see a face behind. I know it will impact some person that I know and that makes it very difficult.”

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