Hittin’ the books at WSCC

With the fall semester under way, Washington State Community College officials continue to keep a close eye on enrollment.

The transition from quarters to semesters last year, coupled with changes to federal financial aid and an improving economy leading some potential students to opt for the workforce over the classroom, led to the school’s enrollment dropping by approximately 15.7 percent after several years of setting records. That resulted in a reorganization and budget cuts last year. And although the administration set a goal of matching that semester’s enrollment, it budgeted for a 5 percent decrease for the current semester.

President Bradley Ebersole said during Monday’s board of trustees meeting that Washington State is not alone in the situation.

“In Ohio, from 2010 to 2012, the community college population declined by 16 percent,” he said. “There’s a hesitancy (among officials at some schools) to even mention it because we’re just so accustomed to growth.”

Some schools are expecting static or slightly increased enrollment, but it’s still too early to tell at Washington State, where classes started a week ago.

Amanda Herb, chief enrollment management and student success officer, said students taking dual enrollment courses for college credit at their high schools have not been tallied yet.

As of Monday, the college had a headcount of 1,452 students, 78 percent of last fall’s enrollment. There are 16,282 credit hours being taken, and although that’s 85 percent of the total for last fall, the average number of credit hours per student have risen from 10.2 last fall to 11.2 this time, suggesting students are better adjusting their course loads to the semester system.

The final headcount and credit-hour tally will be taken on the 15th day of the semester.

The enrollment so far includes more than 300 first-time college students and 81 transfer students.

Among the new arrivals on Washington State’s campus last week were Warren High School graduates Makenzie Harris and Devon Niceswanger.

“It’s very overwhelming but definitely a good experience,” said Harris, 18, of Warren Township, Monday about her first week in college.

“Freedom,” Niceswanger, 18, of Whipple, added. “More independence, given a lot more respect than you are in high school.”

Harris and Niceswanger agreed that finances and proximity to home were factors in their decisions to attend Washington State.

“It’s cheaper, and I won’t be in as much debt when I transfer out into my four-year” program, said Harris, who plans to study criminal justice.

Studying with a group of classmates in the medical lab technology program Monday in the cafeteria was Pomeroy resident Kim Johnson, 26, who transferred to Washington State this semester. She said her new program has been more rigorous than at her previous school.

“I love it here,” Johnson said. “In this place, we actually have to study.”

Students taking classes in the business wing on the second floor of the main building were greeted with revamped classrooms, several featuring new computers and counters, repainted walls and tile instead of carpeted floors, in addition to new study areas. Among the subjects being taught there are classes in the school’s new cybers ecurity program.

In other business at Monday’s trustees meeting, the board approved by an 8-0 vote the discontinuation of the electrical engineering technology/electronics and industrial technology/power plant operator programs. Vice President of Academic Affairs John Tigue said low enrollment led to the decision. While no additional students were accepted into those programs this fall, students will be allowed to complete their course of study.