Laker Current Staff Report
The face of Mid Michigan Community College is changing. In the past five years, the student population has shifted markedly, largely due to a dramatic increase in dual-enrolled and international students and the increased availability of online classes.
The number of international students has more than quadrupled in the last four years, increasing from an estimated 35 in Winter 2011 to approximately 155 in Winter 2015. Matt Miller, Vice President of Student and Community Relations at MMCC, based the estimates on the increase in the number of contact hours recorded by international students, most of whom are full-time students.
Meanwhile, dual-enrolled students, who are high school students also enrolled in college classes, are estimated to reach nearly 1,000 in Fall 2015, Miller said. MMCC’s enrollment is currently about 4,500. The dual-enrollment headcount has been increasing steadily since Fall 2008 when the total was 314.
Online offerings also continue to expand, allowing MMCC to appeal to yet another new population. MMCC has been advancing its online course offerings to meet the demands of working students and parents, who need more flexibility due to geographic, time and transportation barriers. MMCC has offered online classes since 1999. In March 2013, enough classes were available to offer students fully online degrees. Today, at least four different associates degrees can be achieved entirely with online classes, according to the MMCC website, along with a variety of certificates of achievement and training credentials.
Miller said all these program shifts allow MMCC to serve new populations, which also advances the college’s open door philosophy. The increases in online courses and dual enrollment have been more deliberate efforts than the increase in international students, according to Miller.
“Word of mouth works well for international students (rather than recruiting),” Miller said. “Once you get a few students, it usually brings more students.”
In addition, Central Michigan University has a large international student population, which also has added to students’ familiarity with MMCC.
Once a student population starts to increase, Miller said the college faces its next hurdle. “The next thing is how we serve international students and how we can serve them well,” he said. “I think we’ve done a good job, but there is more to do.”
Miller cited the recent posting to hire a Director of International Student Services, as well as the creation of additional positions for advisors and English as a Second Language consultants. Last year an International Student club was formed and has become very active in Mt. Pleasant.
Miller said the addition of international students is good for the overall educational experience because it adds diversity to the campus. “In classes, it brings a whole new element that can enrich the learning experience.”
Dual enrollment provides the same advantages, but also allows high school students to graduate from high school with as many as 60 college credits. Not only is the number of dual-enrolled students increasing, but where and how the students take their college courses. MMCC currently has partnerships with school districts outside of central Michigan, Miller said, including the Huron Intermediate School District in the Thumb and one in the Upper Peninsula.
Miller said having sites all over the state has had a “big impact on what’s happening” at the college. He noted that MMCC has had to hire high school teachers to teach college courses, but noted they go through the same rigorous hiring procedures as other college faculty to assure that standards are maintained along with quality learning outcomes.
The changing populations, however, also have been good for the college, helping sustain enrollment numbers, thus adding financially to the bottom line.