Posted on Monday, September 4, 2017

Faculty, staff and student representatives from across Virginia’s Community Colleges agree that change needs to occur, but it will take months to determine just how much, and exactly what, needs to change. That’s the conclusion from the inaugural meeting of the Chancellor’s Statewide Enrollment Task Force that recently occurred at the VCCS System Office.

Dr. Glenn DuBois, the chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, assembled the task force in response to a six-year enrollment decline, affecting all 23 community colleges, which has left the VCCS serving nearly 50,000 fewer students.

“This is the longest enrollment drought I’ve experienced in my nearly 37-year career,” DuBois said in briefly greeting the panel. “Something is going on that’s perplexing and costly. It’s time to take a deep dive. You have a license to explore anything we do. I want to unleash the talent in this room and see where we land.”

Virginia’s Community Colleges’ headcount and FTE enrollment are both down 16 percent and 15 percent respectively since the 2011-2012 academic year. The number of credit hours students took over that same period declined by 24 percent. The decline cut across all demographic groups. Collectively, the colleges took in $125 million less in tuition and fees than they would have had enrollment held steady.

“Enrollment decline is a national phenomenon,” said Dr. Sharon Morrissey, VCCS vice chancellor for academic services and research. “It is deeper and more dramatic in Virginia.”

Task force members were quick to point out that the challenges of reduced enrollment extend well beyond community college campuses.

“The work of this task force is of the utmost importance; it’s critical to the social fabric of the commonwealth,” said Dr. John Capps, president of Central Virginia Community College and task force chair. “Our enrollment decline is diminishing the opportunities that we can offer to the people of Virginia. We can change policies. We can change processes to be better. That’s the opportunity that we have here.”

As the panel found its footing, conversation flowed throughout the daylong meeting, ranging from specific challenges in enrollment management, student retention and financial aid to broader questions about customer service and campus culture.

“Most students leave us for reasons that are probably in our control,” said Dr. Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna Community College and task force vice chair.

The task force agreed to organize its work through the loss-momentum framework concept that serves as the underpinning of Complete 2021, the statewide six-year strategic plan of the VCCS. And, they agreed to identify and execute communications strategies to ensure that faculty and staff members from across Virginia’s 23 community colleges had the opportunity to contribute. The taskforce is expected to forward a preliminary draft of their findings next February. The final draft is due next May.

jkraus@vccs.edu'

Jeffrey Kraus

Jeffrey Kraus loves a well-told story; a great conversation; and the perfect glass of iced tea. He’s worked as a speechwriter, a journalist and a Zamboni operator (but not all at the same time or even in that order). Don’t talk to him about Steelers football, Penguins hockey, Pirates baseball or VCU Rams basketball unless you want a lengthy conversation.

2 Comments

  1. ?

    Peter Shaw, professor of Business Management and Administration

    In addition to the range of issues the Task Force is focusing on, creating a digital, interactive learning environment in both the classroom and tutoring centers is a must. Otherwise, the VCCS will continue to provide a learning environment that will be of little interest to many Millennials. Converting campus Tutoring Centers into Advanced Learning Centers complete with the digital, interactive learning environment could (1) compliment the digital,interactive classroom learning environment, and (2) satisfy the holistic learning environment Millennials are requesting both on campus and online.

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  2. ?

    Tim W

    Have any of the CC’s gone back and talked to the students that have left to find out why..? Talk to enough of them, and a pattern will develop. A pattern that can then be hopefully addressed. Remember one disgruntled person talks to 10 of their friends. Are the 4 year colleges (our direct competition) having the same numbers issues with first year students. I know last year VCU had its largest freshman class ever…while both Reynolds and Tyler were down…why..? It obviously wasn’t about money, then what was it..better customer service, less run around..?? Until someone starts talking to these kids to find the why, most everything that will be tried, is simply going to be throwing darts on the wall and hoping something sticks. And yes, talk to the ones that are still enrolled, and learn what issues they have/had…and correct them. Whether they means more/better training, or, letting some folks go if need be! The answers are out there.

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