NorthWest Arkansas Community College enrolled more than 7,300 credit students for the spring 2015 semester, NWACC officials announced today, but the number was down 3.2% or 238 students from the same period last year. The college had an unofficial preliminary count of 7,308 enrolled on Tuesday (Jan. 27), the 11th day of classes for the spring semester.
The college’s unofficial fall 2014 enrollment was 8,164, which represented an increase of about 0.7% compared to fall 2013 enrollment.
Steven Hinds, executive director of public relations and marketing, said the slight decrease in total enrollment was in line with projections that college leaders made when calculating the 2014-15 budget. Leaders had budgeted for a 3% decline. Student Semester Credit Hours at NWACC were slightly below the projection. The total credit hours being taken this spring is 65,140, a 4.7% decrease from spring 2014’s 68,371 figure.
“We believe the enrollment shifts are, in part, a function of an improving economy,” Hinds said. “Traditionally, when there is an economic recession, more people enroll in two-year colleges to sharpen their job skills or to study for new careers. That meant a spike in enrollment during the recession years. As the economy improves, those individuals who might have chosen to take classes with us are able to return to the workforce or to move into a higher-paying job, and so community college enrollments decline.”
That said, two areas did register more students this year. The number of high school students enrolled concurrently in classes at the college increased almost 25%. There were 713 high school students enrolled in NWACC classes this spring compared with 572 students enrolled last spring. The Early College Experience Program began in 1995 with five high schools participating. Now, 19 high schools participate.
NWACC also has benefited from being an approved digital learning provider by the Arkansas Department of Education. Under the terms of Act 1280 of 2013, all public school districts and public charter schools shall provide at least one digital learning course to their students.
“We’re pleased to be able to be a partner in preparing students for a world that increasingly relies on technology in the workplace and in the learning environment,” Johnson said.
Enrollment in Distance Learning (online) courses also showed strong growth. The total number of students enrolled in Distance Learning classes is 2,960 in the spring 2015 semester, up from 2,873 students in spring 2014.
NWACC said it continues to place increased emphasis on student retention. This spring, NWACC had 5,054 continuing students. The unofficial fall-to-spring retention rate appears to be 68.9% , up from 67.8% for fall 2013 to spring 2014.