September 1, 2006
Author: Mel Melendez,
2% FEWER STUDENTS AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES
Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ)
For the first time in at least a decade, Maricopa Community Colleges are
attracting fewer students.
The district recently recorded a 2 percent drop in full-time student enrollment,
prompting school officials to beef up outreach efforts and boost course
offerings to lure more students to affected campuses.
The enrollment dip cost the district $2.5 million in tuition and registration
revenues thus far, but no programs or student services are affected, officials
School officials call the decrease a temporary setback sparked by the state's
thriving economy. But they're not sitting on their laurels and have implemented
a regional marketing approach to draw more students.
"We have an unemployment rate of 4 percent, and the healthier the economy, then
the weaker our enrollment," said Steve Helfgot, MCC's vice chancellor for
student and community affairs. "But we're pushing regional collaborations among
our colleges and making tweaks to programs where necessary to help turn that
After about 10 years of swelling enrollment, some MCC campuses, including
Phoenix College and Glendale Community College, recorded slight dips in
full-time student enrollment in 2004-05. But the 10-campus district's overall
enrollment didn't shrink until last school year.
Various factors are to blame. Robust employment numbers, slowed or non-existent
growth in sections of metro Phoenix, and competition from other higher-education
institutions, contributed to the drop, officials said.
But partnerships among MCC campuses and new programs, such as Estrella Mountain
Community College's nursing program and Phoenix College's journalism program,
could help draw additional students.
Estrella Mountain, which in 2004-05 marked a 14 percent enrollment boost,
recorded a 3 percent dip last school year. Officials said the West Valley's
development boom, including the opening of various high schools, resulted in the
14 percent spike. But the prosperous economy contributed much to last year's
enrollment hit, said Ernie Lara, Estrella's vice president of student affairs.
"Studies show that when there are more jobs people tend to stay away from school
and training," Lara said. "But we are concerned because we know that a person's
earning power increases with educational attainment."
The Avondale-based college recently partnered with Phoenix College and Glendale
and Paradise Valley community colleges to launch a marketing blitz that included
mailings, school orientations and a Web site. "It's about renewing
collaborations and combining our forces to attract more students,"
said George Martinez, Glendale's director of institutional advancement.
"This started as a direct response to the enrollment dip and we think the
strategy is showing promise in attracting new students."
Phoenix College and Glendale Community College showed dips of 4 percent and
6 percent, respectively.
Paradise Valley recorded an increase in full-time enrollment of 1 percent, down
from the 5 to 7 percent increases recorded during the past five years.
Administrators are also implementing campus-specific strategies to boost
enrollment. For example, Phoenix College annually holds its Enrollment
Extravaganza affair, a one-stop, customer-service registration event for those
interested in attending the central Phoenix campus.
"This year we enrolled 1,500 students, which was 500 more than last year, so
we're very pleased," said Phoenix College President Anna Solley. "We realize
that there's a lot of competition for students, so we really have to be
aggressive to show students what we have to offer."
Campuses monitored their enrollment numbers and made the necessary adjustments
to offset revenue losses, said Gaye Murphy, MCC's associate vice chancellor for
"Fewer students means that our costs are reduced because you adjust classroom
sizes and support staffing to offset the loss," she said. "So you'd never know
that we lost any students if you visited our campuses."
The district, which annually serves about 70,000 full-time students and has a
maintenance and operations budget of about $541 million, implemented a tuition
increase this school year.
The increase adds $170 in annual tuition and registration costs for full-time
students. This means that in-state students taking 15-credit loads now pay about
$1,980 annually, a figure some Phoenix residents called prohibitive. The change
will generate about $15.8 million to MCC coffers to pay for a new computer
system, academic advisers, expanding libraries and bolstering student
scholarships, officials said.
Still, MCC officials say the increase will likely have "limited impact" on
enrollment, because Maricopa County's tuition and registration costs remain
below the national average of $2,191.
"I think that committed students will persist and find a way to get their
educations, because where there's a will, there's a way," Murphy said. "But for
those with a real hardship, we've set aside $1.8 million for financial aid."
3 REASONS FOR FALLING ENROLLMENT (ĦExtra!, page 1)
1.Robust employment numbers.
2.Slowed or non-existent growth in sections of metro Phoenix.
3.Competition from other higher-education institutions.
Enrollment declines, 2004-05 to 2005-06 (ĦExtra!, page 3)
* Estrella Mountain Community College, 3 percent.
* GateWay Community College, no drop.
* Glendale Community College, 6 percent.
* Phoenix College, 4 percent.
* South Mountain Community College, 1 percent.
Maricopa Community Colleges
CAPTION: 1. Ian Fecke (left), Curtis Mullings and Leticia Quintana talk before
class at Phoenix College. Some Maricopa Community Colleges are experiencing
declining enrollment. CAPTION: 2. Donald and Erica Gerhart take an algebra class
together at Phoenix College. The couple can share a textbook, helping with
Section: Phoenix Community North