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NWACC spring enrollment dips 6.1%

NorthWest Arkansas Community College enrolled more than 7,500 credit students for the spring 2014 semester, college officials announced Tuesday (Jan. 28). The college had a preliminary count of 7,546 enrolled on Tuesday, the 11th day of classes for the spring semester. That figure is down 6.1% or 490 students from the spring semester 11th day count in 2013.

The number of high school students enrolled concurrently in classes at the college increased. There were 572 high school students enrolled in NWACC classes this spring compared with 549 students enrolled last spring.

“We are pleased that even more high school students are taking advantage of this significant opportunity,” said NWACC’s President Dr. Evelyn Jorgenson. “Our early college experience-high school based program offers an excellent way for high school students to begin their college careers and gain some confidence that they can meet the rigorous demands of pursuing a college degree. NWACC is delighted to be able to partner with our area high schools in this project, and we are excited about opportunities for additional collaboration.”

Student semester credit hours at NWACC also decreased this spring. The total credit hours being taken this spring is 68,371, a 6.9% decrease from 73,434 credit hours in the year-ago period.
Jorgenson said the dip in enrollment is not an unexpected development.

“Community colleges across the country are seeing decreases in enrollment this academic year,” she said. “Traditionally, when there is an economic recession, more people enroll in two-year colleges to sharpen their job skills or to study for new careers. As the economy improves, they are able to return to the workforce or to move into that higher-paying job they wanted, and college enrollments go down,” she said.

Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center would seem to support that assessment. In the fall 2013 semester, overall postsecondary enrollments decreased 1.5% from the previous fall, according to the center’s most recent term enrollment report.

Enrollments decreased at two-year public institutions by 3.1%. Enrollment in two-year colleges by students older than 24 years of age dipped by 6% in the fall semester, according to the center’s data.

An academic progress policy that was implemented in the fall also is affecting spring enrollment, but college leaders said the policy is critical to enabling students to achieve success in the college classroom. The policy requires students who took at least 9 hours and had a 0.0 grade point average during the previous semester to sit out for the following semester.

Dr. Todd Kitchen, vice president for learner support services, said the policy gives students and the college the opportunity to determine what happened and what needs to occur so that the student can be successful when he or she returns to the classroom.

“We’ll look at what’s going on with the individual student and what tools or services we can provide to help that student succeed,” he said. “Ultimately, this is about providing our students the best chance possible for success.”

The enrollment figure of 7,546 is still a preliminary number. Data also are reviewed for accuracy before the official report is submitted to the Department of Higher Education prior to a late February deadline.

In the 2012-13 academic year, NWACC served almost 20,000 students. These included 12,140 unduplicated credit students (all students served throughout the academic year, not just one semester’s enrollment), 4,299 students served through workforce development, 247 students served through personal education and enrichment programs, and 3,134 students in adult education programs such as GED.

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Steven Hinds, executive director of public relations and marketing, said credit enrollment only represents a part of the college’s service to the greater community.

The college’s non-credit certified retail analyst program continues to serve a significant number of Northwest Arkansas residents pursuing this high-demand skill set, Hinds said. There are 88 students enrolled in the program and another 44 taking prerequisite courses so that they may enter the program.

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