Enrollment at community college drops | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Enrollment at community college drops

William Ferchland
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Students sign up for classes Monday at Lake Tahoe Community College where enrollment is down 10 percent.

While a growing number of Web-based courses have shown robust student interest, overall enrollment at Lake Tahoe Community College continues to decline.

Classes for the winter quarter began last week and the count is 2,713 students, which is a decrease of about 300 students from the fall 2005 quarter and 10 percent less than at this time last year.

“So the trend that we’ve been seeing for the past two years is continuing,” said Lori Gaskin, vice president of academic affairs and student services, who provided the numbers.

Winter quarter enrollment usually ranks behind fall and spring. College officials, however, are keeping an anxious eye on the continued drop in student numbers which can put the college’s finances and some of its courses in jeopardy.

Gaskin is slated to present a report on enrollment today at 7 p.m. during the board of trustees meeting in room A106. Registration for winter quarter classes ends Friday.

“It’s very important,” said Trustee Roberta Mason regarding class numbers. “We lose money when our enrollment drops.”

Factors such as South Lake Tahoe’s decreasing base of residents and a strong national economy, which usually prompts people to work instead of seeking education, are being blamed for less students.

“It’s not a shock, but it’s disappointing,” said college President Guy Lease.

To help boost enrollment, the college conducted “aggressive registration,” Gaskin said. Several hundred students were contacted who took classes in the fall but had yet to register for winter courses.

College representatives participated in fairs throughout the state, lobbying high school students to consider enrolling at Lake Tahoe Community College. Gaskin said results of the efforts won’t be known until later this year when the high school students graduate and move on to higher education.

In addition, unique classes are being added to the schedule, such as the “History of Rock Music” in the winter quarter and an anticipated anthropology class on the television series “Star Trek.”

“We’re trying to hit all segments of the population with their interests,” Gaskin said, who added the “History of Rock Music” class is struggling with enrollment and could be canceled.

The growing number of online courses, now at six, have Gaskin encouraged.

“We’re interpreting this as a sign that our students are looking for flexibility and accessibility to their learning, and that’s what online education provides,” she said.

Hope rests on the completion of the campus library, which is scheduled to open early in the spring quarter, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal, scheduled to be released today.

Although the library is not expected to provide a sizable boost in enrollment, it will have a classroom. The opening will also make the library above the student commons area expendable and allow room for more instruction or study areas.

One hurdle facing the library construction is a gas meter located where a hallway will connect the new building to the main campus, said Chris Janzen, vice president of business services.

It will also have a board room and a 2,000 square-foot art gallery.

Janzen said it’s “still very early for us to know” if financial cuts will be needed until the college gets a better picture of areas such as winter enrollment and the governor’s budget proposal.

With enrollment levels known to fluctuate, Mason said the board has taken precautions and been prudent for times like this.

“You never know and that’s why our board has always been fiscally conservative,” she said.

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