Registration for the fall semester at Sampson Community College was held this week, with an expanded new student orientation taking place Thursday leading up to class starting this Monday, Aug. 15. Early indications are that enrollment will rise between 5 and 6 percent over last fall’s numbers.
Blair Hairr, dean of Student Services at SCC, said the college is anticipating an increased enrollment for fall 2016, but the exact numbers would not be available until after registration was complete. This week she estimated a nearly 6 percent in enrollment.
“We are up 5.6 percent in headcount so that is great news,” Hairr told the SCC Board of Trustees earlier this week.
The fall enrollment for 2015 was 1,359 students. She noted as of Tuesday night that there were 600-plus referring students for Wednesday’s registration and another 146 students registered for new student orientation on Thursday.
“So we ended up having to open up two new student orientations for Thursday,” Hairr said. “We are committed to being here until every student is served and look forward to doing it with a smile.”
If the 5.6 percent enrollment increase comes to fruition, it would put the college’s numbers more in line with those from fall 2014, when students tallied 1,443 before the 5.8 percent decline in 2015. Summer enrollment numbers were up 80 percent, from 323 to 582 students, according to school officials. Hairr said that trend was expected to continue into the fall.
“With summer enrollment up, we are hopeful there will be an increase in fall enrollment as well,” Hairr said last week. “Most community colleges across the state have experienced a decline in enrollment over the last few years, so we will certainly celebrate any percent of increase this fall.”
College officials cited an expanded schedule of classes — total courses offered rose from 44 in summer 2015 to 74 in summer 2016 — and the work of division chairs, faculty and student services staff in the ballooned summer enrollment. However, she attempted to quell any expectations of a repeat performance.
“The summer number — that 80 percent — we are very transparent with that, that was a one-trick pony. I’m not going to be able to come to you next summer and say we’re up again 80 percent,” said Hairr. “There were a lot of contributing factors for the summer increase.”
SCC trustees lauded the Career and College Promise (CCP) program, a partnership between the college and the two local school systems in Clinton and Sampson County. As part of that program, more than 100 CCP students took classes this summer, tuition-free. Hairr said that number is around 220 for fall, in line with spring’s numbers.
“It’s been a growing relationship between high school counselors and student services,” said Dr. Bill Starling, vice president of academics and administration at SCC. “There were some kinks we needed to iron out. They’re not all out, but the program continues to grow and, with their support, good things are happening.”
Trustees chairman Michael Chestnutt asked Hairr what she attributed the increase in enrollment to, suggesting that “changing the stigma of coming here first” might be part of it.
“The cost of a four-year education is our biggest marketing advantage,” Chestnutt stated. “I’d love to have to go to the county and ask for two or three more buildings.”
Hairr said expanding services has been a selling point, along with strengthening the relationship with school counselors.
“For the fall, we’ve just been continuing to communicate through the schools that it is OK to start here,” Hairr remarked, noting some with plans to attend a larger university find requirements or standards have not been met. “They want to get in and they think they have their ducks in a row, then find out they don’t. I think that them communicating with others about the positive experience when they get here has been a contributing factor.”
Trustee Larinda Haight said a good working relationship between SCC’s departments, local school officials and prospective students has helped immensely.
“I can tell you from 20 years of experience working with them, it has improved immensely,” said Haight.
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