Classes are back in session at Sampson Community College, but as of Tuesday, enrollment numbers appear to be down.
According to Dr. Paul Hutchins, SCC president, Friday was the first official day of classes for students, and enrollment in the curriculum classes appears to be down from last year’s fall semester.
General student enrollment, as of Aug. 18, is 1,443, which Hutchins and Amy Noel, Dean of Student Services, both said is less than the approximately 1,540 who attended SCC in Fall 2013.
“We aren’t really happy,” Hutchins said about the numbers. “We would really like for our numbers to grow.” Hutchins added that his hopes are to make up some of their loss in numbers with through the continuing education program, which, according to Noel, was 6,698 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
“These numbers are still a work in progress,” Dr. Bill Starling, Vice President of Administration, stated. Final numbers for enrollment will not be complete until sometime at the beginning of next week. However, Starling said they anticipate the enrollment numbers being down more than five percent from last year.
According to Noel, students are allowed to change their schedules and add classes until the class meets for the first time. By this Friday, she added, all classes will have met at least once. Therefore, the enrollment will not change after that date.
During the economic downturn which began a few years back, enrollment numbers increased, which Hutchins said is directly related to the economy.
The downward trend of late, however, isn’t really a surprise, college officials said.
Both Noel and Starling said the enrollment numbers at surrounding community colleges appear to be headed in the same direction as those at SCC.
“Community colleges, statewide, have seen a gradual decline in enrollment over the last three or four years,” Noel said.
Some of the larger community colleges, such as Pitt and Wake Tech, are feeder schools for the larger institutions. Their enrollment numbers, Starling said, normally increase. For many of the smaller institutions like SCC, administration isn’t so lucky.
Over the last few years, Hutchins added, the enrollment numbers at Sampson Community College have flat-lined and remained about the same.
One of the reasons, Noel said, for the decline can be found in job numbers that show more people in Sampson are being employed than a few years back. While increased employment is a good thing, Noel said it does bring their enrollment numbers down when people return to the workforce.
Another reason, Starling explained, is due to the fact that the cost of taking classes appears to be more than many residents are able to afford. Starling said once those students withdraw, the college is left with students who receive financial aid, scholarships, third-party help or are a part of the early college program.
“It is increasingly challenging for the students who pay out of pocket,” Starling said.
The biggest cost, Starling said, is books. “Once they see what their cost in books is going to be, they just can’t afford to write the big tuition check and then another check for books.”
As for a financial impact the decrease in enrollment may have, Hutchins said it will likely be felt next year.
Hutchins said he and the staff at Sampson Community College work hard to make achieving an education as easy as possible for the students.
“There are really good things happening here at Sampson Community College,” Hutchins said. “Our staff works hard to ensure our students receive a great education.”