There are still months left before the final enrollment numbers for East Central College’s fall semester are finalized, but early numbers show a slow start to summer enrollment.
President Dr. Jon Bauer said the college is reacting to the trend by focusing on not only bringing in new students, but focusing on retention for current students.
“It looks like primarily our area of focus needs to be those students who have been with us and haven’t graduated but haven’t yet enrolled,” Bauer said. “When we look at new student numbers, those numbers are even, we’ve been up some and down some, but generally about even with last year. So the area of concentration for us is currently on retaining students.”
Retention has been a focus for the college since last year’s Higher Learning Commission visit that originally resulted in a recommendation that the college’s accreditation be put on probation.
Later, the college would overturn the commission’s decision and receive a lesser recommendation, but Bauer said the lessons ECC learned persist.
He said focusing on students who are at risk of not finishing their degrees or transferring away from the college will be a major focus in the coming years and that, over the summer, the college will reach out to the students
“We want to see them persist from semester to semester and year to year. We want to reach out to them and encourage them to complete their time here,” Bauer said. “We want to see them back here when the Fall semester begins.”
That outreach can sometimes be as simple as a letter in the mail but increasingly has become about having a personal connection with students, Bauer said. He said making a connection, encouraging students to finish their time at ECC and informing them of financial aid and scholarship opportunities can make all the difference.
“You use everything possible to get the word out, but when you can make that personal contact that’s the most powerful,” Bauer said. “If students haven’t completed or transferred they’ll probably hear from us, even if that’s just to hear what their plans are.”
Financial Aid, Scholarhsips
Last year, ECC’s scholarship offerings were overhauled in order to give students more opportunities to finish their degrees. Bauer said that is a massive help to students who may be struggling to come back to school for financial reasons.
He noted, that while retention has become a focus for the college, recruitment of new students will always be important and at the forefront of enrollment efforts. He said when looking at enrollment numbers the first thing that comes to mind is how to attract new students, but focusing on retention has become just as important.
“You always want to bring in new students of any age, whether it’s that recent graduate or that adult who’s looking for a new direction or training or a degree they’ve always wanted,” Bauer said. “We continue to focus on recruiting new students, but retention has become equally important.”