Enrollment dips by 12%


Dominic Salacki

Enrollment has dipped by 12% over the past year. Shown, a small class meeting in Careers.

Dominic Salacki, Editor-in-Chief

Student enrollment at AACC is down by 12% this semester from last fall.

That decline in the number of students paying tuition has cost the college an estimated $3.9 million, according to Melissa Beardmore, vice president for learning resources management. The school’s annual budget is $110 million.

Beardmore said the college has been able to balance its budget by cutting expenses.

Vice President for Learning Tanya Millner said the pandemic has made education a lower priority for many.

“When your health care becomes an issue or your health in general becomes an issue, I think college enrollment falls down the priority list,” Millner said. “Registering and enrolling in school becomes a competing interest that sometimes loses out when your priorities are work and trying to support a family.”

In addition to a decline in enrollment, fewer existing students are re-enrolling from semester to semester.

Millner said prior to the pandemic, the college retained 62.3% of students from one year to the next. Over two years from fall 2019 to fall 2021, that number dropped to about 55%, she said.

Women have left the college in greater numbers than men, according to Dan Baum, executive director of strategic communications. “We have 1,400 fewer students, comparing fall to fall,” Baum said. “About 1,000 of them are women.”

Millner said an improving economy is another reason for the decrease in enrollment this semester. When potential students go back to work, fewer enroll in classes, she said.

Plus, Baum said, “We do know there are students who took gap years [or] gap semesters as a result of COVID.”

Former business student Audrey Wais took a break from classes this semester but said she plans to return in the spring and change her major to psychology.

Wais said she had intended to take classes this semester but “didn’t feel ready.”

“I enrolled and then I withdrew within a week before classes started,” Wais said. “I lost my sense of direction, and I think [with] the pandemic and everything that was going on, I was burned out.”

 Wais said “non-stop” quarantining took a toll on her mental health.

“I just needed to take a break,” Wais said. “I needed to take a step back to redirect myself and focus on mental health, and I feel like I am doing better.”

“There’s no doubt that COVID is having an impact, for sure,” Baum said.

Baum said the college is trying to retain students by lending them computer equipment and offering services like free counseling and food.

Millner said the college plans to survey students about what they need to stay in school.

“I think that’s a good place to start, to assess what their needs are,” Millner said.

Still, Millner said she doesn’t expect AACC to bounce back to pre-pandemic enrollment levels by the spring semester. But she said the college is “definitely going to offer more in-person classes [next semester] unless something happens with COVID.”

“We always have to [consider that potential hindrance],” Millner said. “That’s what we’re preparing to do.”