MARIETTA - There are challenges just ahead for Washington State Community College, according to President Bradley Ebersole during the institution's board of trustees meeting Monday afternoon.
"We're facing some different challenges in the next year, including moving from quarters to semesters and some new financial aid requirements," he said. "And we'll have more than 450 graduates leaving the college this year."
Ebersole said the economy is strengthening, which is good news for jobs, but could be bad news for the college.
"When the economy is strong, enrollment tends to go down at community colleges," he said, referring to a chart that showed enrollment at the school increasing during times of unemployment as job-seekers tend to go back to school to build their skills.
Amanda Herb, chief enrollment management officer, said the school's final quarter - the summer quarter - will begin June 18.
She said the state-mandated switch from quarters to semesters beginning this fall would impact the school's financial aid disbursements to students.
In Other Business
John W. Tigue, former dean of liberal arts at Baton Rouge Community College, Louisiana, was unanimously approved as the school's new chief academic officer.
The trustees gave special recognition to retiring Chief Academic Officer Mark Nutter for 21 years of service to the institution.
"We'll do most of the disbursements in the fall and spring semesters, so we don't expect our summer term enrollments to be as strong in the future," Herb said. "But we're not alone - all of the community colleges going from quarters to semesters are seeing a decline in summer enrollment."
She noted the majority of summer students are age 24 and under.
"Fall is our biggest term, and we're currently at around 38 percent of our total enrollment goal of 2,211 for the fall," Herb said. "Last year by June 9 we had registered 50 percent of our full-time fall enrollment, so the next few weeks will be very critical."
To help beef up the enrollment numbers for next fall, Herb said students are being encouraged to meet with their advisers and register before the end of the current spring quarter.
"About 450 students are graduating this spring - that's one of the largest in Washington State's history, but it also means that many will have to be replaced in next fall's enrollment," she said.
Jess Raines, the college's chief financial officer, said the fiscal 2012-2013 budget still required some adjustments before it is presented for final approval by the trustees next month.
"This budget has been based on an anticipated 5 percent decline in enrollment," he said. "The economy is still struggling and the unemployment picture is changing as more students are going back to work. And state funding is declining as we try to build our annual budget."
Raines said WSCC is not alone as at least 10 other schools in the state are also changing from quarters to semesters.
"Because this is new, we don't have the historical models on which to build our next year's budget," he said. "There will be a balanced budget presented at the June meeting, but it will take some significant monitoring throughout the next year."