ENROLLMENT UP, BUT BUDGET DOWN $1.5 MILLION
SALISBURY, N.C. — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College kicked off a busy fall semester 2013 last week.
“Our numbers are still preliminary because selected classes don’t register until later in the semester. However, Rowan-Cabarrus is serving at least two to three percent more students this year than last, with more than 6,800 students,” said Gaye McConnell, vice president of student services and enrollment management at Rowan-Cabarrus. “These students are also taking fuller course loads than they were last year.”
The College is funded based upon the number of Full Time Equivalents – which means the number of students (or combined figure) taking a full-time course load. The acronym FTE refers to the term “full-time equivalent,” a calculation used by the state to determine funding levels per student. For Rowan-Cabarrus, this number is expected to be about four percent above last year.
Most sister institutions across the state are reporting decreases in enrollment. There are continued high levels of local unemployment, despite some statewide economic improvement in available jobs. While unemployment certainly contributes to the increased enrollment, Rowan-Cabarrus also attributes the increase to several new initiatives at the College.
“We are serving more and more transfer students at Rowan-Cabarrus. The College is the only public institution of higher learning in our two-county service area, and the most affordable option in the region as a whole,” said McConnell. “The 18-25 year old population alone at Rowan-Cabarrus has grown more this year, indicating that more young people and their parents are recognizing the strategic nature of choosing a low-cost, high value college, especially for the first two years of higher education.”
The College opened its new one-stop center, dubbed Navigation Station, on its North Campus this spring. This unique one-of-a-kind model places all student services in a single, easy-to-access location to minimize the effort and time required for a student to receive basic information and service. Everything from admissions to financial aid, cashiering to testing can be accessed in a single location.
“The new Navigation Station includes three different components – an online presence of FAQs that allow students to find answers to commonly asked questions easily, an in-person physical presence and a call center. All of these services combined make it possible for students to have access to support services when they need them and when it is convenient for them,” said McConnell.
This summer, the Navigation Station call center staff made more than 3,000 direct phone calls to Rowan-Cabarrus applicants to assist them with next steps to enrollment including applying for financial aid, completing placement tests, or selecting an advising seminar or a registration support session. The College’s South Campus Navigation Station is operational, but the renovated space will be finished and unveiled in the spring.
Additionally, a new brand for the College was developed in partnership with current students, high school students, parents of high school students, high school counselors, alumni, faculty, staff, community members, and College board members. Launched in January, the brand emphasizes the concept of “Navigating Forward” and students finding the path that’s right for them.
Based upon higher demand, the College also increased its online and hybrid course offerings. The College is offering more than eighty-six percent more online and hybrid classes than it did last year. These classes, which have increased in popularity both across the country and here locally, allow students to have greater flexibility in course scheduling, ultimately increasing the student’s ability to complete educational goals.
Additional efforts centered on targeted communication to recent high school graduates, GED graduates, and current students struggling academically.
From a budget perspective, the College is serving more students this year than last year, but with less funding. Despite the enrollment increase, the College’s budget allocation from the State of North Carolina (which makes up 90 percent of the College’s funds) is down $1.5 million this year.
In order to manage this decrease in funds, the College has had to delay the start of two new health-related programs, Occupational Therapy Assistant and Physical Therapy Assistant.
“In our local service area, experts anticipate a 15 percent growth in jobs for occupational therapy assistants and 21 percent for physical therapy assistants,” Spalding. “The future of healthcare is vitally important to every citizen, and the College has an obligation to provide the best, most affordable training available to ensure that our communities maintain a well-trained and responsive healthcare workforce for the benefit of our personal health and our local economy.”
Unfortunately, the College has also had to scale back its hours for ancillary services, including the library and tutoring.
“We’re serving more students this year than last year, but our budget is down over $1.5 million,” said Carl M. Short, chair of the Rowan-Cabarrus Board of Trustees. “While I feel confident that the College will do its best to handle these cuts in a way that minimizes the impact to students, it is undeniable that continued decreases in funding will have a long-term impact on the College’s ability to improve our community’s economic future.”
For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, please visit www.rccc.edu or call 704-216-RCCC (7222).