For the second year in a row, enrollment at Northwestern Michigan College is down.
And a good portion of the blame goes to the economy, school officials tell The Ticker.
“One of the indicators for us is when employment is down enrollment is up,” explains Chris Weber. “People come to us to be more employable, to learn new job skills. So when employment is up, our enrollment goes down a bit. We respond to the needs of the community.”
Weber is NMC’s Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Services and keeps close tabs on the school’s headcount. She recently reported that NMC’s current winter enrollment is 4,623 students, down from 4,917 last year.
That’s a dip of 6 percent and translates into an $184,000 drop in revenues generated from tuition, from $6.53 million to $6.35 million.
So how does NMC deal with that kind of financial hit?
“We have some flexibility there because we had added adjunct instructors (when enrollment was high) and now we just don’t hire as many,” says Weber. “We’re able to add supplemental staff when needed.”
Like a lot of Michigan’s community colleges, NMC’s enrollment had been climbing steadily until last year. It rose from 4483 students in 2009 to 5114 in 2010, then to a high of 5,194 before dipping last year.
"The past four years we have experienced the highest enrollment in NMC history which parallels region unemployment rates and students' participation in government funding programs such as No Worker Left Behind and Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TRA),” says NMC President Tim Nelson. “We also expect enrollment variation from year to year as we meet the needs of the community and industry."
To reverse the trend, NMC’s admissions officials plan to develop a vigorous visitation program targeting high school students. Part of that will be a renewed emphasis on campus tours and an innovative virtual tour to allow prospective students to view all of the school’s four campus sites – the Main Campus, Great Lakes Campus, Aero Park Campus and University Center.
“Because of the four locations, it’s a bit hard to show them in a logical way,” explains NMC director of admissions Cathryn Claerhout, who joined the school last year.
“The virtual tour will help them see more of what we have to offer.”
The virtual tour is being tweaked now and should be available to access through the school’s web site NMC.edu by May 1.
NMC is also looking beyond its five-county service area to attract international students. The school added a full-time advisor for international students and is working toward a goal of 5 percent international students. For 2012-2013, there are 63 international students enrolled, up from 43 in 2011-12. Part of that increase can be attributed to trips that NMC students and officials have made in recent years to Russia, Brazil, Costa Rica, India, the Netherlands and Wales, according to Weber.