The Yuba Community College District is facing a steady decline in student enrollment. According to census date numbers, the district saw an overall 12.3 percent drop in enrollment from fall 2000 to fall 2005. Similarly, the district saw an overall 12 percent drop in enrollment from spring 2000 to spring 2006.
Alan Lowe, Vice Chancellor of Educational Planning and Services, said that decreasing enrollment is a statewide trend. “There are a couple of schools that are experiencing growth, but for the most part the schools are either flat or have dropped a couple percent,” said Lowe.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office addresses the statewide decline in enrollment in a publication issued in December 2005. According to the LAO, collectively California Community Colleges saw enrollment drop by about 115,000 students, or about 6.6 percent, in 2003. In fall of that same year, the Yuba Community College District saw its student enrollment drop by 14.2 percent, or 1,409 students, according to census date numbers.
Lowe believes that recent fee hikes are part of the problem. “We lost enrollment through tuition and fees,” he said, “which seems to be the statewide issue.”
The LAO lists several factors that may be responsible for a statewide decline in enrollment, including increased student fees. The State Legislature raised student fees at community colleges from $11 per unit to $18 per unit starting in fall 2003. According to the LAO, “Some students likely chose not to enroll at this higher cost.” The fee was raised again in 2004 to the current student fee of $26 per unit.
Lowe also blamed the discontinuation of concurrent enrollment for the recent drop in students. Concurrent enrollment is a program that allows high school students to attend college classes.
There are two forms of concurrent enrollment. The first allows students to take college level classes before or after high school. The second form of concurrent enrollment is called an embedded class. An embedded class was a class the students could take in high school by a high school teacher while getting both college and high school credit.
Concurrent enrollment-specifically the embedded classes-was being misused, causing the embedded concurrent enrollment classes to be terminated. There were also physical education concurrent enrollment classes during the summer that were discontinued because of misuse. Colleges statewide were using these physical education classes as a recruiting tool for athletes.
According to the LAO, when the State Legislature reduced funding for concurrent enrollment by $25 million in 2003, high school students concurrently enrolled in community college courses dropped from a peak of about 94,000 in fall 2001 to about 49,000 in fall 2003. “Thus, more than one-quarter of the system’s overall headcount drop between fall 2002 and fall 2003 can be explained by the drop in these high school students,” reports the LAO.
The Analyst’s Office also lists reduced course offerings as a possible cause for the decline in student enrollment, stating that “districts reduced course offerings in spring 2003 in anticipation of possible budget reductions that had been included in the Governor’s budget proposal for 2003-04.
Although these proposed reductions were largely excluded from the enacted budget, the Chancellor’s Office suggests that districts had already prepared for the reductions. … With fewer course offerings, some potential students found there was no space in courses they needed and thus did not enroll.”
None of the reasons listed by the LAO, however, account for the disparity between colleges. Why the Yuba Community College District is experiencing a more dramatic decline than the statewide average is not evident. Nor is it evident why the district is seeing a disparity in the enrollment of students from different counties.
According the census date numbers, the district saw a 14.6 percent drop in students coming from Sutter County between spring 2000 and spring 2006. However, over that that same time span, the district saw only a 3.3 percent drop in students from Yolo County and a 10 percent drop in students from Yuba County.
Lowe said that students may not want to travel over the bridges due to traffic and added that it might take him less time to travel from Lincoln to Yuba College than for some students coming from Yuba City.
The district is taking steps to raise enrollment numbers. “We have formed an Enrollment Management Committee,” said Lowe. “They are looking at everything from class schedules to marketing to see how we can bring students back and to see what mechanisms will create the access that might not be there.”
Professor Brian Jukes, the chair of the Scheduling Workgroup of the Enrollment Management Committee, believes that there are at least 15 problems the district faces in scheduling that may be responsible for low enrollment.
“The District Council requested that we provide a list of identified scheduling problems with an accompanying list of possible solutions,” Jukes said. “The Scheduling Workgroup has just finished compiling a list of problems, and we’re currently addressing the solutions. I think many of the problems we’ve identified may be responsible for our low enrollment, such as too few classes in non-traditional formats and no degree available through weekend or evening offerings.”
Jukes continued, “I think our biggest problem, however, is that as an institution we tend to be reactive to enrollment trends and not proactive in enrollment management. I hope that the Enrollment Management Plan will help us there. But frankly, until we start looking at what we’re doing wrong semester after semester and learn some lessons from our past, we haven’t much hope for a brighter future in terms of enrollment.”
Kevin Trutna, Vice President of Academic and Student Services, stated that one of his goals is to accommodate the distance education students so they will be able to receive a full general education degree without attending a single class on a Yuba College campus.
“We’re adding between eight and twelve online classes for the fall semester, and we are targeting twenty for the spring,” said Trutna.
Trutna also has a plan for those living in Yuba City. “We’re looking at our particular scheduling, and next year we’re going to have a presence out at Sutter County, which includes five night classes at River Valley High School in Yuba City.”
Trutna also intends to get the word out about Yuba College to those who are new to the area.
“We’re developing a welcome packet that we’re going to place on the doorknobs of all of the homes of the new developments in the area,” Trutna said. “We figured there’s a lot of new people in the area that may not know about Yuba College, so we’re gonna give them a schedule of classes and a couple of brochures.”