Coming together to slow enrollment declines

By Jim Babb

In Virginia, community colleges are taking steps to address several years of declining student enrollments.

In May, Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS) board accepted recommendations from a blue-ribbon task force that spent the past several months studying the issue. The panel developed recommendations aimed at reversing the trend.

“We recognize enrollment declines are a threat to our ability to pursue the VCCS mission and serve the commonwealth,” said John Capps, president of Central Virginia Community College and chairman of the Chancellor’s Task Force on Applying the Community College Mission to Virginia’s 21st Century Needs.

Task force Co-chair Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna Community College, added, “This is a challenge that defies easy explanations and simple solutions. We know that, to remain relevant in the long term, our colleges must meet the changing needs and expectations of students and Virginia’s evolving economy.”

“We know our enrollment declines are part of a national trend, but that doesn’t mean we can sit on our hands; we must take action,” Capps said.

VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois is prioritizing three of the task force recommendations with most potential for early results:

• Creation and deployment of a strategic research-driven statewide marketing campaign for Virginia’s Community Colleges;
• Pursue policy changes to remove financial barriers to promote affordability and increase access for all Virginians to postsecondary education; and
• Strengthen advising and student support to help VCCS students achieve their academic and career goals.

Last year, the state’s community colleges served almost 57,000 fewer students than they did just six years ago. That’s a 22-percent decline, and put in perspective, the enrollment loss number is greater than the combined enrollment of 17 of Virginia’s colleges.

The decline has cost millions of dollars in lost tuition, and resulted in hundreds of lost jobs at institutions across the state.

To learn more about the chancellor’s task force report, click here.

How is your system working to slow enrollment declines? Sound off at LinkedIn.

This article was originally posted here.

Jim Babb

works for Virginia’s Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.