Downward turn in enrollment sparks recruiting campaign

Chui L. Tsang, president and superintendent of Santa Monica College, announced an intensive new student recruitment campaign last week due to a dive in student enrollment last semester.

The highest increase in enrollment normally occurs in the fall semester because high schoolers graduate in the spring. However student enrollment increased in the spring semester of 2013 due to the passage of Proposition 30, according to Trena Johnson, assistant to the dean of enrollment at SMC.

According to Hannah Lawler, director of institutional research at SMC and assistant to the associate dean of recruitment, due to the elimination of money for recruiting in the budget, no enrollment campaigning ensued.

"Our campaign stretches out to schools across the street and across the nation," said Lawler. "At the same time, we do not lose sight of locals in the community.

Lawler said the use of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is used to increase enrollment. Members of the staff also send newsletters and email blasts to recruit. Counselors may visit local community events to promote college enrollment.

According to the student gender comparison chart from the SMC institutional research center, from 2008 to 2012, female enrollment has dropped from 56 to 53 percent, a loss of over 1,000 female students. Over this same period, the student male enrollment climbed three percent, from 44 to 47 percent.

Students on campus provide a different perspective on the issue of student enrollment. Some students believe the greatest hindrances to enrollment are financial aid and long distance commute.

"One of the best ways to decrease retention and increase enrollment simutaneously is to extend the [Big] Blue Bus program," said Marcus Fain, a student worker in the Black Collegian Center, who has been attending SMC for three years.

According to Fain, most grants, such as the Cal Grant, Pell Grant and Extended Opportunity Programs and Services grant, have draconian guidelines that prevent thousands from enrolling in college.

Other enrollment factors include the California Community Colleges, which sets the standards for college eligibility. The EOPS guidelines in the student handbook require students in need of aid be born to “first-generation” parents.

EOPS student enrollment is down from 4.2 percent of the SMC population to 2.2 percent from 2008 to 2012. This decrease represents a 50 percent drop from approximately 1,300 to 650 students.

The classes in high demand at SMC are math, with enrollment nearing 10,000 and English over 10,000, according to SMC institutional research enrollment data.

Most community colleges have strict assessment standards for entering students especially in the area of math and English. In fact, most math and English majors remain at SMC for a period of three to four years before moving onto a university.

In a national survey, a CNN Money magazine compares the top colleges which give students the best chance of transferring to a four-year institute. According to the survey, SMC has a 48 percent success rate.

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