Co-Lin enrollment down 6 percent in year

Published 12:01 am Monday, February 13, 2012

ROD GUAJARDO/The Natchez Democrat — John Hoggatt, left, a professor at the Natchez campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, shows his automation and controls program students Carl Whiting Jr. and William Mathis how to work on an electronics project. The Natchez campus has experienced a decline in enrollment of approximately 6 percent in the last year. At top, Rami Rogers, a freshman at the Natchez campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College sits in her theater appreciation class.

NATCHEZ — The Natchez campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College has experienced a decline in enrollment of approximately 6 percent in the last year. School administrators, however, say the situation isn’t that bad.

Co-Lin President Ronnie Nettles said the Natchez campus’ unaudited spring numbers for 2012 total enrollment are at 781, down from 830 for the spring of 2011. Nettles said he expects that after the audited numbers are completed, the total will likely be between 760 and 770.

The drop in enrollment is one that is being observed in post-secondary education in general, Nettles said.

“This downward trend in enrollment is not uncommon throughout the state,” he said. “A lot of colleges around the state are experiencing that.”

Natchez Campus Vice President Teresa Busby said that while the numbers are down, the losses have been spread across the different programs the school offers. Likewise, if one is using the formula to calculate the number of full-time equivalent students, the school is only down approximately 20 full-time equivalents, Busby said.

“I still have full classes running,” Busby said. “If you walk through our campus it doesn’t look like our numbers are down.”

Even though the numbers for this year reflect a downward trend, Nettles said overall Co-Lin’s enrollment is actually up over a longer period of time.

“If you look at the district total for 2008 and the total for today, we were up district-wide about 20 percent,” he said.

This doesn’t mean that Co-Lin’s administration is just letting the numbers slide.

“We are looking very carefully at where that (lost) enrollment came from, was it traditional-age students who might have gone to college somewhere else, was it students who had a Pell grant who may have lost their aid?” Nettles said.

Likewise, Nettles said financial aid that was available during the worst part of the economic recession for workers who had lost their jobs and needed retraining has largely been used and is no longer available.

Busby said it’s possible that a sluggish economy forced students to choose work over school.

“Times are kind of hard, so if they got an opportunity to take a job they took it,” she said. “They feel like they can’t afford to go to school right now.”

But Nettles said it’s also possible the opposite is true, stating that community college enrollments spike during bad times.

“From the positive standpoint, it could be that the economy is getting better,” he said. “We could have more people going back to work who would have gone back to school a few years ago.”

Whatever the reason for the decline, Busby said the school will focus on retaining the students it has while revamping its recruiting efforts.

“We are going to look at how we are recruiting, who we are recruiting and where we are recruiting,” she said.

The final audit of the numbers will be available in the fall, Nettles said.