Summer campaign increases SMC enrollment

Toward the end of the spring semester, as some 30,000 students prepared to take finals, the Board of Trustees announced plans for a campaign that would increase enrollment at Santa Monica College.

“It’s already hard enough to get the classes I need," said Jackie Cole, an SMC student. "I can only imagine what it’s going to be like in semesters to come."

College enrollment is up 1.5 percent, said Teresita Rodriguez, dean of enrollment development, at Tuesday night's Board of Trustees meeting.

Even though the enrollment is up, however, "actual headcount is down, but students are taking more units," said Rodriguez.

The campaign included ads on Big Blue Buses, which listed reasons students should sign up at SMC. Television and radio commercials were also aired.

Chui L. Tsang, superintendent and president at the college, said the plan to up enrollment was not meant to be negative, but to increase the possibility of more classes. The college proceeded with the campaign to tell students, who had been discouraged by not being able to enroll in needed classes and going elsewhere, that space was available at SMC.

On the first day of school, there was a 91.5 percent seat-fill rate in core classes, which include English, math and the social sciences. Over 4,700 students added classes on the first day of school, and continue to do so, meaning that exact enrollment numbers will fluctuate for the next few weeks.

"I don't know what the increase means for me personally, but I hope it makes more classes available," said Hannah Rodriguez, a sophomore at SMC.

According to college data found on SMC's website, enrollment was down from over 34,000 students in the fall of 2012 to over 33,000 in the spring.

Louise Jaffe, a member of the BOT, said that the goal of the college was to “restore enrollment and confidence with the students.” The advertisements on buses and in the media were in response to the previous drop in enrollment.

"Since the economy is slowly improving, more people are trying to get jobs instead of schooling," Jaffe said.

Jaffe mentioned the enrollment-based funding that drives the school to encourage students to sign up for classes. The more people the college has enrolled, ideally, the more money there is for classes, Jaffe said.

“The college is committed to regrowth, and although we have been at capacity for many terms, the increase is due to being able to offer more classes that the students need," said Kiersten Elliott, dean of admissions and records. "After the passing of Prop. 30 last November, more funds were given to the school making it possible for growth."

Even though classes have, as she put, a “supply and demand” idea, SMC seeks to make enrollment a priority with this philosophy, Elliott said.