East Central College saw an unexpected boost in enrollment this semester in the form of dual enrollment students.
President Dr. Jon Bauer said the increase in enrollment is enough to leave the college’s financial situation better than what was budgeted for in the summer.
Bolstering the college’s online and dual enrollment programs became a focus for the college after changes to Missouri’s budget last year that left ECC near a budget deficit and forced to make cuts.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Tia Robinson said the boost can be attributed to the school’s initiative to attract more area high school students to its dual enrollment program.
This semester alone, ECC attracted 155 more dual enrollment students than in the fall of last year, an increase of 36 percent. The college saw an increase of roughly 39 percent in dual enrollment credit hours as well.
“We were able to get out and in front of our high schools and increase the number of dual enrollment students,” Robinson said. “In a very, very short time we were able to make a huge impact in enrolling more students into our program.”
Robinson and Dr. Russ Henderson, the college’s newly appointed director of dual enrollment and college readiness, visited several area high schools to pitch dual enrollment and seek information on how ECC can become the “local choice” for students.
“Dr. Henderson and I went out and sat at the table with many of our high schools and we just said, ‘We realize it is competitive, we realize you’re currently receiving dual credit services from other colleges and universities, but we’re in the position to become your No. 1 provider,’ ” Robinson said.
Many area high schools had already partnered with other colleges and universities in the past, according to Robinson. She said most of them are paying higher costs.
One of the main goals of the visits was to explain why ECC would be a good option.
“We want to offer multiple pathways to college credit,” Robinson said. “Dual credit needs to be offered in more than one locality. We need to offer dual credit at high schools, we needed to figure out how to bring students to campus, we needed to look at developing an early college initiative and we need to build partnerships with other organizations and institutions.”
As a response to area high schools’ requests, ECC will launch a new initiative titled “College Now.”
This program will allow students to earn an associate college degree or certificate from ECC while concurrently completing high school.
Robinson said by 2018 the first run of students will be enrolled in the program and working toward the several degrees and certificates offered.
“We asked the question: What are your needs and how can we service you?” Robinson said. “We spent time listening to our high school partners and we heard them say we want to send our students to East Central.”
Henderson said there is still a lot of work to be done in developing the program and on dual enrollment as a whole. He said as the program improves, so will the college’s enrollment.
“If we offer them (students) these opportunities, not only does our enrollment grow, but our reputation grows and we become the college of choice,” he said.
An early college and dual enrollment planning committee is being formed now and will include faculty; members of advising, registrar, admissions; deans, division chairs; and program coordinators.
Bauer said when he met with superintendents and principals two years ago they had differing wants and needs, but dual enrollment was a recurring need for area districts.
“They all wanted more opportunities for college credit for their students while still in high school,” he said. “It was always an interest, but it was never a frontrunner issue like it is now.”
Bauer added that in the past only some colleges had opportunities for high school students to earn degrees, but that has changed. He said ECC needs to be competitive in attracting students’ interests.
“It’s not just coming to Missouri, it’s in Missouri in selective cases,” Bauer said. “We certainly want to be part of that as it’s an important part of our growth and strategy.”