JALC Enrollment Rebounds
January 29, 2016
STEVE O'KEEFE, Ed.D
Officials report a 25.9 percent increase over fall 2015 enrollment
At first look it would have been easy to count John A. Logan College out. You could have easily told faculty and staff at the Carterville based College that with no budget resolution from the state expected this year that the College’s enrollment would continue on a rapid decline that began in the spring of 2015, and that hard economic times would make it even harder for enrollment to rebound.
Instead the College is looking at a 25.9 percent increase in enrollment over this past fall. The turnaround is due in part to a message that was sent loud and clear to faculty and staff a few months ago when the fall semester began. It was at the annual welcome-back-to-school meeting held the day before fall classes started that Vice President for Administration Dr. Larry Peterson sternly told the group that he believed the College’s best days were not in the past, but ahead.
“I have been away from here and I can tell you without hesitation that there is no better place than this, and we will be great again. I know this because we are going to get back to the business of putting students first,” said Peterson.
Fast-forward to November where new leadership in student services brought a fresh perspective to how the College approached enrollment and retention. Eight staff members took on advisement responsibilities to help ensure that students were getting attended to quickly. While other staff members volunteered time to set up stations in busy areas on campus to talk to students and make appointments for them to register for classes.
Communication between student services and instruction also improved. Administrators in both divisions worked closely together to improve scheduling and increase opportunities for students. Faculty reminded students daily to register for classes and not to wait until late registration began.
By early December, the efforts were starting to pay off with enrollment projections ahead of schedule. Then came the disparaging news that of the students already enrolled, over 900 students were in jeopardy of being dropped for non-payment on January 4. Again, staff rallied around the call to help out. Staff members all across campus divided up the list of students and began calling to check on them and give a friendly reminder that tuition was due on January 4. The College continued those reminders throughout the holiday break by text messages and emails as well.
The efforts paid off and by the close of business on January 4 over 800 students had paid leaving only 112 students dropped for non-payment. The result was the highest ever single revenue day in the history of the College when over $400,000 was received in the Bursars office. Staff reached out again to the 120 students dropped resulting in 60 re-enrolling by the start of classes on January 13.
Tuesday’s Board of Trustee’s meeting marked just over five months since Peterson’s directive to the College was delivered. In his report to the Board on the status of the spring 2016 enrollment, he was joined by Director of Institutional Research, Eric Pulley, who provided a presentation showing a “clear” picture of enrollment at the College for both fall 2015 and spring 2016.
According to Pulley, the College’s new administrative software program allowed him for the first time to remove students that were only registered in credit classes in either Continuing Education or Workforce Education out of the total headcount. Pulley added that this allowed him to count what he described as the, “true traditional college student walking the halls of John A. Logan College.” Pulley went on to explain that fall 2015 was unique in that the switch to the new software system had not allowed students to be dropped for non-payment. So when he adjusted fall’s enrollment to factor in non-payments as well as those continuing and workforce education students fall’s actual enrollment was 3,396. Representing the College’s lowest enrollment since 1990. The next slide in the presentation illustrated just how much the campus-wide effort to refocus on enrollment had paid off.
As of the tenth-day of the semester, the College had an enrollment of 5,264. When adjusted to remove 990 students registered in the for credit continuing and workforce education classes the College’s spring enrollment came in at 4,274 students representing a 25.9 percent increase of 878 students over last fall.
Peterson thanked the faculty and staff that answered the call and went the extra mile for students. He added that the same effort that went into promoting registration to the College’s current students will be emulated this spring as staff visit in-district high schools and revamp orientation for new students.
“I know we face difficult times, but I truly do believe now more than ever that with continued effort and commitment to making students priority number one our best days are ahead of us and we will be stronger in the end.”
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