January 27, 2012
TC3 enrollment figures down slightly
About 3 percent fewer students attending class this semester compared to last year
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Tompkins Cortland Community College students Michael Cerqueira, left, and Nicholas Papayannoulis talk about the differences between growing up on Long Island and going to school in Dryden, before going to class on Thursday.
DRYDEN — Enrollment is down slightly from one year ago at Tompkins Cortland Community College, due mainly to students who did not continue taking courses from the fall.
Provost John Conners said enrollment was lower by 3 percent — 20 full-time equivalent or about 100 students — during a report Thursday to the college board of trustees. The enrollment stood at about 3,500.
The pattern is nationwide for community colleges, Conners said. Some community colleges in New York state are worse off; Corning Community College was 8 percent lower this week.
TC3 officials could not put a firm dollar figure on the enrollment drop, although 20 FTE less would mean a loss of $79,000. That could be offset by higher numbers of international students expected for this summer. The drop could mean less state aid in 2012-13.
Classes began Thursday and many students were enrolling at the last minute, as staff contacted continuing students to see if they were taking courses this semester and answer their questions about financial aid.
Another factor might be the college’s tougher standards for students in the developmental courses, math and English courses that help students review or learn material they need for college work. TC3 adopted new policies last fall that force students to use the courses to advance into college work, because some were just taking them — sometimes more than once — without enrolling in a degree program.
Some students might not qualify for financial aid now, if their academic performance was not strong enough in the fall.
“As of Wednesday, we had met our goals for transfer, new or reinstated students,” Conners said. “Today we had a steady stream of students registering. We have a larger number of students on probation due to the change in standards.”
Blixy Taetzsch, dean of operations and enrollment management, said staff have found a range of reasons why students from the fall are not enrolling.
“It’s often personal reasons,” she said. “The reasons are all across the board: academic, financial, family.”
She said there is no pattern and TC3 has never been able to invest the money in researching exact reasons.
Trustee Judy Davison asked if there were demographic patterns. Taetzsch said no.
“Students who come to community college often have things in their lives changing,” she said.
Conners said that on the positive side, online courses were close to full and the seven residence halls were full as well, with waiting lists.
Board Vice Chair Ray Schlather said the college might be trying too hard to pinpoint reasons why continuing students do not return and should use its resources for other ways to help enrollment.
Taetzsch said the number of TC3 students age 24 and older grew in 2009, after the 2008 economic downturn nationally, as students enrolled to change careers or get the degree they never had. That trend might be ending, she said.
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