|New tactics deployed to fight sagging enrollment
From its humble start as the Northeast Valley Education Center in 1985, Paradise Valley Community College grew very quickly. A timeline of PVCC’s history at the Buxton library shows double and sometimes triple digit percentage enrollment increases during the 1980 s and ‘90 s. But PVCC’s heady growth in its formative years began to level off in 2005. The college enjoyed a bump in enrollment in 2008, but it proved short-lived, as the college began to shed enrollment beginning in 2010. Enrollment for the current semester is down 7.7% from the previous year, the third consecutive year of declines.
PVCC President Dr. Paul Dale cites several reasons for lower enrollment:
• Aggressive competition from schools like ASU online and Grand Canyon University,
• Stricter financial aid requirements, an improving job market,
• The lack of new residential development are all factors .
In this more challenging environment, PVCC is planning innovative strategies to grow enrollment that could significantly alter the student experience and change the way the college does business day- to-day.
Seeking to reverse the current three-year decline, Dale recently announced a goal of adding 500 FTSEs, short for Full Time Student Enrollments, to the college in the next three years. In his announcement, Dale wrote that a strategic enrollment management plan is being formulated to guide the college’s efforts to grow enrollment.
Dale placed a three-pronged “Student Success” approach at the heart of the initiative. He told the Puma Press recently that he believes when students achieve the goals that brought them to the college, this success will naturally drive enrollment. Therefore, he believes, a “student success culture” will be the most important factor in achieving the new enrollment goal.
One of the first changes seen on campus as part of the enrollment push is the expansion of alternative course scheduling this semester. In addition to the traditional 16 week courses that begin the first day of the semester, PVCC is offering more classes with 14-, 12-, and eight-week durations. These courses begin later in the semester, allowing students to register while the semester is already in progress. This was a strategy favored by many participants in an enrollment management meeting held by PVCC’s College Leadership Council in 2012.
There is also a District-wide initiative complementing PVCC’s localized efforts to boost enrollment. The Integrated Marketing, Outreach, Recruitment, and Retention Initiative (IMOR2) seeks to streamline administrative processes for students, and coordinate marketing for all the colleges. The Kranitz Student Center’s Welcome Center is one result of this District-wide initiative to streamline, and Dale says he hopes it will help PVCC grow enrollment.
“We obviously want to make it easier for students (to enroll)… I think we’re still learning to a certain degree how to capture the power of the Welcome Center,” Dale says.
Dr. Marylou Mosley, Vice-President of Academic Affairs at PVCC says that another change underway is the creation of a single record for each student in the MCCCD system so that a student can more easily move between colleges. Currently, students must set up a separate record at each college they attend.
Mosley also says that PVCC is trying to leverage marketing to boost enrollment. This includes a push this semester by PVCC’s Marketing department to advertise the new late start courses. Improved marketing is a goal on the District level as well. A major initiative of IMOR2 is rebranding the MCCCD and its colleges so that the public sees them as one unit instead of 10 independent entities. A logo change for the colleges could be one result of the initiative, according to IMOR2 documents.
Even though MCCCD is coordinating large scale efforts to grow enrollment, Dale says achieving PVCC’s enrollment goal will come down to the effort of the individual faculty and staff members.
“Everybody on campus needs to engage (with students),” he says. “Students will stay if they feel comfortable, have relationships at the college and with faculty.”