Central Oregon Community College enrollment dips

By Tyler Leeds The Bulletin

Winter enrollment at Central Oregon Community College has continued to dip after reaching historic highs in 2012.

Beginning in the 2007-08 school year, the number of credits being taken doubled over a four-year period. Last year saw a slight decrease in the full-time equivalent count, a measure of student credits used to determine state funding, declining from a high of 2,106 down to 2,065. The rate of decline sped up this year, with FTE falling to 1,929. Administrators say they anticipated this trend, as community college enrollment tends to decline as the economy improves, the result of would-be students taking jobs instead of enrolling.

“It’s in line with what we were thinking would happen and certainly mirrors what we are seeing at other community colleges,” said Alicia Moore, dean of student and enrollment services.

Moore said the college is investing more effort into recruiting out-of-district students throughout the Northwest, in part by hiring a new assistant director for enrollment and outreach.

“The plan is to formalize our outreach,” Moore said. “We have strong recruitment in local areas, but we are not yet as sophisticated in our effort as universities when reaching out of the district. We want to elevate our game a bit.”

The decline in enrollment isn’t limited to COCC’s main Bend campus. Enrollment is also down 14.8 percent from last winter on the Prineville campus and 11.7 percent in Redmond. Madras, however, is up 25.7 percent. Administrators emphasized that given the overall low enrollment at the satellite campuses compared with the Bend campus, enrollment swings are to be expected. Another bright spot is the number of high school students taking courses at COCC, which is up 28 percent from last year. Moore also said she sees potential in the growth of Oregon State University-Cascades Campus.

“We anticipate we may lose some students to OSU-Cascades who want the freshman-to-senior-year experience,” Moore said. “But we also anticipate we will gain even more students who may enjoy our class sizes, relatively robust offerings and certainly lower tuition for two years before transferring.”

From their perspective, OSU-Cascades administrators are not concerned about the dip in enrollment at COCC.

“Even with the drop, I still feel like there’s a lot of opportunity to get more students,” said Jane Reynolds, director of enrollment services at OSU-Cascades. “And as we move toward fall 2015, we’re going to be adding different streams of students anyway, as we begin bringing in true freshmen.”

Reynolds said recruitment on the Bend campus is strong, but that the university plans to have “more robust” recruiting at the college’s satellite campuses. “I certainly think there are more students we could reach,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com