Declining enrollment continues into spring


Photo by Brad Dress

Enrollment has declined for five straight years.

Jesse Johnson, Editor-In-Chief

AACC’s enrollment has declined for the past five years, and officials are projecting it will continue to dip.

Enrollment of students taking for-credit classes this semester is 12,345, down from 13,904 last semester, according to the college.
But enrollment began to decline in 2012. Since then, the number of students on campus has dropped by 5,305.

Between Fall 2011 and Fall 2012, the number of students dropped by 307 to 17,650.

In 2011, enrollment had increased to 17,957 from 17,665 the year before.
Vice President for Learner Support Services Felicia Patterson said declining enrollment is not unique to AACC; in fact, it is happening at community colleges across the country.

Patterson also said when the country is going through an economic downturn, the enrollment at community colleges go up, whereas in a recovery, enrollment declines because potential students will be going back to work.

“I think most community colleges, including [AACC,] feel like … there is a longer recovery time [from the recent recession] than what normally occurs,” Patterson said.

Students older than 25–those who are most likely to be looking for jobs–are contributing most to the decline, while enrollment among students younger than 18 is consistent, according to the college.

Teenage students can enroll into credit courses at the college while still in high school.
Enrollment has been declining at AACC for a multitude of reasons, according to Dan Baum, executive director of public relations and marketing.  
“I think if we had the answer to the one problem, we would be solving the one problem,” Baum said.
The college is experimenting with solutions to turn enrollment around. One solution is for the faculty to simply talk to students to see what they are struggling with, according to Patterson.
“When you have been doing the work for a long time, and you know the college, and how things can get done, or how to help a student, then as you talk to students, you can give them suggestions about what needs to happen,” Patterson said.
The public relations department is campaigning to recruit older students and new high school graduates to enroll at the college. The department designed a flyer picturing former Student Government Association President Chris Pineda to target younger students, and another featuring Tina Newton, a former student and flight attendant, to advertise to older potential students.
Dylan Johnson, a JumpStart student, said AACC should take the extra step to engage with high schoolers and add more extracurricular activities that might interest them.
“Nobody comes [to my school] from AACC to talk to kids about how nice it is,” Johnson said. “No one says why going to AACC is better than going to any other university right out of high school.”
At a faculty meeting in January, AACC President Dawn Lindsay said the college has added three health care programs at the Center for Cyber and Professional Training at Arundel Mills with the hope of attracting new students.

In an email to the campus community on Feb. 2, Lindsay said the college has brought in a new special assistant to the president for enrollment management and strategy to help reassess what the college is doing in terms of enrollment.

Dr. Oscar Joseph said he will put an emphasis on what he calls ‘the three Ps”: program, people and place. This emphasis calls for the college to: consider if the programs it offers are aligned with student interests; give students the opportunity to build relationships within the campus community; and finally, make students feel welcome and supported when they are on campus.

Joseph also said bringing the enrollment up is not his job alone, but a team effort to which everyone should contribute.

“That’s the only way that we can get the word out that this place is a great place to be,” Joseph said. “So when people see AACC, there is something there to excite the person. Everybody has to feel that way from when they get here to whenever their completion may be.”

Joseph began his position March 1.