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UPDATE: Preliminary Numbers Show NWACC Enrollment Down 6.1%

UPDATE: Preliminary Numbers Show NWACC Enrollment Down 6.1%
BENTONVILLE --Northwest Arkansas Community College reporting a decrease in enrollment numbers. Preliminary numbers show the spring 2014 semester enrollment is down 6.1%.

NWACC released the following statement on the enrollment drop:

NorthWest Arkansas Community College enrolled more than 7,500 credit students for the spring 2014 semester, NWACC officials announced today.

The College had an unofficial preliminary count of 7,546 enrolled on Tuesday (Jan. 28), the 11th day of classes for the spring semester. That figure is down 490 or (6.1 percent) 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 E. 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 percent decrease from spring 2013's 73,434 figure.

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."

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 percent from the previous fall, according to the center's most recent term enrollment report. Enrollments decreased at two-year public institutions by 3.1 percent. Enrollment in two-year colleges by students older than 24 years of age dipped by 6 percent 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 say 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 Academic Progress Policy is one of a number of steps the College has implemented to focus on student retention and completion. As a part of that focus, Learner Support Services recently has completed a reorganization, which includes the merging of the Admissions and Advising offices and the creation of an Associate Dean of Student Success position.

The enrollment figure of 7,546 is still a preliminary number. Eleventh-day enrollment numbers provided to the state Department of Higher Education do not include students who may be auditing a class or who are enrolled in "late start" classes that begin after the traditional 16-week term kicks off. Data also are reviewed for accuracy before the official report is submitted to the Department of Higher Education prior to a late February deadline.

Steven R. Hinds, executive director of public relations and marketing, pointed out that credit enrollment only represents a part of the College's service to the greater community.

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.

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 currently 88 students enrolled in the program and another 44 taking prerequisite courses so that they may enter the CRA program.

BENTONVILLE, AR. ---  Students at Northwest Arkansas Community College returned to school this week. While a Spring enrollment count isn't taken for a few weeks, the college is expecting a drop. 

"Spring is normally smaller than the fall semester, but we do expect a decline for Spring 2013. When it's all said and done, the numbers finalize out at we expect to be down somewhere between the 6% to 7%," said Steven Hinds, Executive Director for Public Relations for NWACC. 

There are a couple of reasons for fewer students. The first? A growing job market in NWA. 

"It sort of has two sides to it. It's positive because the economy has improved, so more people are getting jobs and they're able to better their families.
As the economy tanks, then people decide they need to go back to college. When the economy improves, some of those people decide 'well I've gotten the job I want,'" said Hinds. " So, they may drop out and stop taking classes. It does mean that we will likely see a decline, just like community colleges in the state and the nation have done."

Also, in the Fall of 2013, a new policy was put in place. If a student has taken nine or more hours and failed all classes, he or she is not allowed to re-enroll at NWACC next semester. 

Hinds said that new code kept 300 students out of the Spring 2014 semester. With the lower numbers, the school is also trimming its budget to accommodate the dip. 

"Our board of trustees has approved a new one. We will be looking at what sort of changes need to be made to the budget for the Spring semester," said Hinds.

Even with a slump in student sign up, Hinds said the college plans on keeping students and their education at top of mind. 
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