MARIETTA - The state-mandated shift from quarters to semesters isn't just affecting Washington State Community College's enrollment for the fall.
During Monday's board of trustees meeting, Paul Wells, senior director of admissions and advising, presented figures showing enrollment for the current summer quarter is down nearly 19 percent from last year. The final count won't be taken until July 3, and college President Bradley Ebersole said he expects it to increase, although some students are intentionally avoiding summer classes.
"Students are either completing their degree in the quarter (system) or waiting for the semester to begin," he said.
Wells said that's being borne out in interactions he's had with incoming students.
"Many times in these one-on-one conversations, it's, 'Can I just do my whole degree under semesters?'" he said.
Also presenting additional challenges for students are federal changes in financial aid criteria. The time of eligibility for PELL grants has been reduced from eight years to six, and satisfactory academic progress standards have increased.
Some students only learned they were not eligible based on the latter measure recently, so the college extended summer registration until Wednesday to allow them time to appeal and get their aid reinstated, Ebersole said.
The current summer session is the final quarter for Washington State, as it will join all state-funded colleges and universities on the semester system in the fall.
The change is affecting other schools' enrollment in similar ways, Ebersole said, noting The Ohio State University's summer enrollment is down significantly.
And Washington State is bracing for an enrollment decline in the fall, due not only to the change to semesters but improvement in the economy that has some people opting for work over school. The board last week approved a budget built around a fall enrollment of 2,100 students, and a contingency plan is being formed should numbers come in below that level.
Still, Ebersole said the staff is working toward the goal of matching the fall 2011 enrollment figure of 2,211 students.
"Everybody's experiencing the downturn; we know it's there, but this group is not resting," he said.
Claudia Owens, executive director of marketing and public relations, outlined a campaign designed to attract new students to the school through print, radio, television and billboard ads.
The school has 1,193 students registered for the fall semester, 54 percent of its goal. Ebersole said the earlier start for the semester allows seven fewer days of registration, so the school plans to offer two Saturday signups as well.
There will be a late-start session in the fall, beginning in mid-October, Ebersole said. A late-start summer program, similar to the winter intersession, will be offered from July 16 to Aug. 10, John Tigue, vice president for academic affairs, said before the meeting.
In other business, Ebersole said the college is working to develop a welding program based on feedback from local employers.