Enrollment remains stagnant

By Xavier Johnson, Wed Editor

Enrollment at Contra Costa College is experiencing a drop coming off a 2018-19 academic year that saw significant growth in Full-Time Equivalent Student (FTES) numbers according to the fall 2019 enrollment report.

As of Sept. 3, the current enrollment figure is 2,322 FTES, which is only 0.2 percent off the start of the fall 2018 figure of 2,326 FTES. In the spring, FTES experienced a 6.3 percent increase making this semester a noticeable stagnation after two semesters of growth.

The FTES is based on the total number of units students enrolled in, divided by 15 units.

One student enrolling in 15 units represents one FTES.

Despite the growth and minimal drop off this fall, the college is still less than halfway to its academic year enrollment goals. 5,631 is the target for the academic year including fall, spring and summer semesters, according to Dean of Students Dennis Franco.

“We haven’t met our goal in a while. We haven’t met our goal in the four years I’ve been here,” he said. “We’re not even at half our goal and this is the biggest semester. It’s always good when we’re at least maintaining or going up. When 5,631 is your goal, we’d have liked to be at least at half of that,” Franco said.

Franco cited a variety of factors providing a possible explanation for the college failing to meet enrollment goals.

The economy is doing well, which leads to more adults focusing on the workforce, contributes to the drop in adults age 35 and over enrolling at Contra Costa College. That combined with historic lows for high school seniors enrolling are contributing to lower than desired enrollment numbers.

The lack of growth also correlates to a spring semester with a significant amount of administrative turnover. Factors like this cause the college’s outreach and marketing programs, which were credited by Franco, as factors leading to 2018-19 growth to be diminished.

Dean of Enrollment Services Rodolfo Santos said, “We’ll look at annual FTES and ramp up summer just in case the fall or spring numbers go down. There are multiple variables.”

The dean of enrollment services position was vacant for most of the spring semester last year and the college hired a new Outreach Program coordinator, former Student Life Coordinator Joel Nickelson-Shanks.

Onboarding the new hires halted momentum and outreach and marketing were noticeable factors in boosting enrollment.

One program that suffered the most was the First-Year Experience program which provides students with counseling support when they enter Contra Costa College.

Despite stagnation and the current numbers indicating the college is not on track to meet its enrollment goals, Franco said he understands the factors.

He also said coming off a boost in the previous academic year sometimes means it is natural to level out.

“We’ve seen some uptick in enrollment. Our headcounts are going consistently up. We are slightly down, but given the jump last fall, partially due to the compressed calendar, It’s impressive, we’ve only down-ticked well less than a percent. We slightly returned to the mean,” Franco said.

Headcount saw a 1 percent increase from 7,340 in fall 2018 to 7,412 in fall 2019.

The Contra Costa Community College District as a whole has a 3.8 percent drop in FTES from 14,185 in fall 2018 to 13,647 which is the current figure according to the fall 2019 enrollment report.