After eight consecutive semesters of increased enrollment, College of DuPage has seen a college-wide decrease in registration. This 1.4 percent decrease in enrollment for college level classes sparked questions among faculty and students, but admissions and administration at the college has found a silver lining.
While the decline has raised eyebrows due to President Robert Breuder’s recent departure, College of DuPage is just one of many Illinois community colleges to see a decrease in enrollment this semester. Acting Interim President Joseph Collins does not feel the college should be alarmed by the decrease.
“Other schools, some of them are down six, eight, even ten percent, so when I look at how other schools are doing, College of DuPage is actually doing much better,” said Collins.
Collins does not expect the decrease to be a large deficit to the college’s budget. “We will bring in about $1.5 million less than we were planning on, but in a $180 million budget, there’s ways to make up for it,” said Collins.
Vice President of Student Affairs, Earl Dowling, explained that much of the decline may be based on a larger availability of jobs. “We observed that 30 percent of the applicants cited adding skills or finding a new job as their reason for applying, however, they enrolled at lower rate than in the recent past – which we expect given the improved job market,” said Dowling in an email. Dowling spoke of Admissions and Outreach’s idea to create an “employment message” to attract students not looking to continue on to a baccalaureate degree.
Lower enrollment may also be due to a demand for fewer credits. This semester, the Dual Credit office reported a 12 percent increase in enrollment.
Another positive for the college is reduced enrollment in developmental math and english courses, speaking for the college-readiness of the incoming class at COD.
While Collins has sent emails to faculty and staff implying bad press may have something to do with the drop, Dowling does not believe that is a concern.
“Even if there is a direct relationship between the enrollment decrease and the negative publicity, there isn’t anything we can do about it at this point,” said Dowling. “Our focus now is to help the students who did enroll be successful in the classroom.”
Both Collins and Dowling expressed initiative to increase enrollment, but comfort in current numbers.
“There’s not much you can do about it,” said Collins. “You can provide the availability of the classes and market it, but it’s up to the students to decide to come to college. We’ve been very fortunate the past four or five years where we’ve had very strong enrollment.”