PRCC enrollment up, despite statewide decrease

Published 7:00 am Friday, September 23, 2016

Students at Pearl River Community had the opportunity to talk with recruiters from area universities about their future education plans. Photo by Julia Arenstam

Students at Pearl River Community had the opportunity to talk with recruiters from area universities about their future education plans.
Photo by Julia Arenstam

Reports released this month show enrollment at Mississippi’s community colleges for the fall semester is down despite an increase in enrollment at state public universities.

The report states university enrollment has reached an all-time high of 83,016 students for this fall, an increase from last year’s record breaking 81,024 students.

Despite the average decrease in enrollment for state community colleges, Pearl River Community College’s enrollment has increased by 1.5 percent, with 4,775 students.

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“We’re very pleased with our enrollment this fall,” PRCC President Dr. William Lewis said. “We continue to offer a high quality, low cost education.”

Lewis said the college is increasing recruitment efforts by forming an internal advisory committee and hiring additional staff to recruit and advise students.

“We’ve really stepped up our efforts in terms of recruitment in the past couple of years,” Lewis said.

After the school received a demographic study several years ago, Lewis said they were told a national declining birthrate would lead to lower enrollment for several years to come.

“The pipeline of 18-year-olds would be decreasing, diminishing the college-aged population,” Lewis said.

He added that the college saw enrollment decrease slightly last year, leading to a change in recruitment focus.

Recruiters have now been given the additional responsibility of advising students once they enroll in the college, Lewis said.

“Those advisors start to build relationships with these students, and become the contact person when they come and enroll,” he said.

As part of a national 15 to complete program, PRCC is encouraging students to take more hours, giving them the opportunity to complete on-time, Lewis said.

“It encourages students to stay in school because they can see the finish line,” he said.

While public university enrollment is up in the state, Lewis said he doesn’t think that is taking away from community colleges.

“Most of that increase has come from out of state students,” Lewis said.

While state universities receive additional appropriations for out of state students, community colleges’ only financial benefit comes from tuition and fees, Lewis said.

“We are what our name implies, we focus more on our local community,” Lewis said.

Enrollment at PRCC peaked during the recession a few years ago with over 5,600 students enrolled at one time, Lewis said.

With the economy improving and an increase in job availability, Lewis said enrollment has gone back down to “the right size.”

Through summer enrichment courses, the college is aiming to introduce the campus to potential students, Lewis said.

“We’re trying to make that strong connection with those students at an earlier age. We think that will pay dividends in time,” he said.

About Julia Arenstam

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