Enrollment on the rise

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Perhaps it’s the new classrooms, more instructors and opportunities available at Pierce. Faculty and staff aren’t sure why, but enrollment has increased by 2 percent this semester.

According to Dean of Academic Affairs Mary Anne Gavarra-Oh Pierce is at 99 percent enrollment compared to the spring 2016 semester and 96 percent compared to the other colleges in the district. Additionally, the college saw a six percent increase in new students, as well as a four percent increase in students ages 19 and under.

“We’re good at keeping stable right now,” Gavarra-Oh said. “It’s great that the college is recruiting students.”

There are various outreach programs at Pierce that help recruit new students. Some of these outreach efforts include visits to feeder high schools, Discover Pierce, formerly Farm Walk, and extension programs on campus, according to Angela Belden, co-chair of the Enrollment Management Committee.

Belden said that while enrollment increases and decreases frequently, there could be several contributing factors to the increase.

“It could be the number of section offerings, or that more students are ready to go back to school this semester,” Belden said. “It could also be the new construction and the fact that students have less of a hard time getting from one place to another on campus.”

In addition to the recruitment programs, Pierce also has programs that help students return to the college, complete their education and transfer.

Belden said that the summer bridge program and the orientation programs help students feel ready to start their education at Pierce, and the programs offered by Student Services help students become engaged on campus.

Belden also said that the faculty and staff at Pierce have a significant impact on the retention rate.

“The things that the faculty and staff do are so wonderful,” Belden said. “Many of them started in community college themselves, and then went on to get [multiple doctorates] and came back to teach. I think it inspires students that their professors were once in the exact same position as them.”

Like Belden, Gavarra-Oh said that the staff is a large contributor to keeping students enrolled at Pierce.

“We have hired new instructors and counselors this year,” Gavarra-Oh said. “I think they bring a new life to Pierce and they’re connecting with the students.”

Other retention programs that Gavarra-Oh and Belden spoke of were the learning communities at Pierce, the first-year experience program and the UMOJA program.

Vice President of Student Services Earic Dickson-Peters said that the opportunities that Pierce offers play a large role in connecting students to the campus.

“Because we are a community college, students want certain things from their experience here,” Dickson-Peters said.

He also said that Pierce’s Enrollment Management Committee does their best to provide aspects of the college experience that students seek out during their time here, including the new food court and the various events on campus.

Dickson-Peters said he wants to ensure that the right programs are available to students and that the environment at Pierce is optimal for learning and growing.

He also said he hopes to help increase the number of student employment opportunities on campus so students don’t have to worry about planning their classes around their work schedule.

“If we reduce the travel time between classes and work, more students will probably be on campus,” Dickson-Peters said.

Dickson-Peters said that though Pierce has already done great things for its students, there is still more to be done.

“Now is the time to start the conversation about the college experience,” Dickson-Peters said.