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Chesapeake College sets strategies for dealing with enrollment surge

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WYE MILLS – Chesapeake College officials announced Thursday strategies they will take to deal with the college’s enrollment surge, including additional parking options and staff assistance in helping direct students to classes when the fall semester starts on Monday.

"When you combine our enrollment surge with the closure (for total renovation) of the Kent Humanities Building, we know just getting on campus and getting to those first classes could be a problem for some students," said Mike Kilgus, the college’s vice president for administrative services. "We’re hoping additional parking and highly visible staff assistance will make things easier for students."

The college – still running almost 8 percent ahead in headcount and nearly 10 percent ahead in Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) compared to this time last year – passed 2,700 registered students and 825 FTE for the first time on Thursday. Every 30 credit hours equates to one FTE for state funding purposes.

Kilgus said the college has created additional parking options on both drives leading off campus. Students will be able to park on the right-hand side of the main college driveway that empties onto Route 213. Students will also be able to park on the right-hand side of the back college driveway just past the Eastern Shore Higher Education Center that empties onto Route 662.

Additional parking will also be available, weather permitting, on the grass in back of Parking Lot A near the college’s baseball field. The college will have two security officers on duty during day and night classes for the first two weeks of the semester in order to assist students looking for parking.

"I would encourage students to allow extra time to find parking so they can get to class on time," said Monte Garrettson, the college’s director of facilities. "I would also ask that students please obey all parking regulations, including not parking in handicapped spaces or on red-marked curbs."

Staff will be available in the campus quad before the start of the major class blocks (8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m.) to help students find their classes, according to Joan Seitzer, the college’s dean for retention services.

"The campus is going to look different even to our returning students with the construction area that’s sealed off the Kent Humanities Building," said Seitzer. "We’re using some different spaces for classes, and we want to help students get where they need to go."

In another strategy to deal with increased demand, the college is offering Saturday registration on August 22nd (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and August 29th (8-10 a.m.). The August 22nd registration is taking place in conjunction with New Student Orientation. The August 29th registration coincides with the start of Weekend College.

Chesapeake’s enrollment surge is part of statewide and national trends recently documented by the Washington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Community College Times, and University Business Magazine, among others.

Newsweek, in a July article, referenced an American Association of Community Colleges study that detailed a 13 percent increase in national community college enrollment just since 2008. The Newsweek article cited the economy as a major reason, noting "[t]he economic tsunami that has shrunk endowments and family college funds alike has also triggered a new and growing appreciation for community colleges and the critical role they play in America’s higher-education system."

Mid-August projections indicated statewide community college credit enrollment may increase as much as 9 percent this fall. If that happens, statewide community college enrollment would approach 140,000, which would be almost 12,000 additional students compared to Fall 2008.

"Most community colleges are dealing with enrollment surges," said Dr. Barbara Viniar, Chesapeake College’s president. "Unfortunately, the enrollment boom coincides with fiscal challenges we’re all facing as a result of the economic downturn, but we’re doing everything possible to meet student needs."

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