BCCC enrollment reaches five-year high
Published 6:38 pm Monday, August 26, 2019
Enrollment numbers at Beaufort County Community College are the highest in half a decade this semester, bringing positive implications for the institution’s finances and paving the way to new opportunities for students.
A total of 1,668 students started at the college last week, the highest enrollment since 2015, when the college withdrew from the Federal Student Loan Program. Enrollment for the fall semester is up 4.7% from 2018 and 11.5% from 2017, according to a press release from the college.
“I think it means we’re proving that we’re relevant for the service area we reach, Beaufort, Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties,” BCCC President Dr. David Loope said. “Students want to come to us to take courses and enroll in programs. Those programs lead them to the university or directly to the workforce.”
The increase comes at a time when many community colleges throughout the state are seeing enrollment drop.
From a state funding perspective, the college has enrolled 601 full-time equivalency students this semester, up from a low of 543 FTE students in Fall 2017. This number is significant, because the number of FTE students determines how much funding each community college receives from the state. For two straight years, declining enrollment led to a decrease in state funding, forcing BCCC to cut its budget by approximately 10% in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
“Prior to 2017, the college had to make some tough decisions regarding the continuation of academic programming and hiring of new faculty and staff, so those are primarily where you have to end up making cuts when your enrollment drops,” Loope said. “What the enrollment increase means is we have the opportunity to hire additional faculty and staff to meet the needs of an increased number of students. It also enables us to plan for new programing that can hopefully help us sustain the growth by connecting in a relevant way to the needs of our service region for employment and university transfer.”
With a rebound in enrollment that began in Fall 2018, however, the college will receive more state funding for the 2019-20 fiscal year, a projected increase of approximately $550,000, according to Loope.
As to the reasons behind the increased enrollment, a press release from the college cites a variety of factors, including expansion of its early college programs, record-breaking scholarship awards from the BCCC Foundation and increased marketing efforts.
With the loss of federal funding sources for students through the federal student loan program, the BCCC Foundation has stepped up its efforts to award scholarships meeting the needs of local students. During the 2018-19 academic year, the Foundation awarded $165,000 to local students based on financial need and merit.
“Sometimes it takes what many of us would consider a small amount of money to make a difference in a student’s life and in their ability to enroll at the college, stay at the college and finish more quickly,” Loope said.
The addition of new student services, such as a staffed summer advising center, more tailored student orientations and online registration and payment, have also made it easier for students to navigate enrollment, according to the release. Transfer agreements between the college and East Carolina University, UNC-Wilmington, North Carolina State University, N.C. A&T and Elizabeth City State University and The Citadel, also offer incentive for students to attend BCCC, saving time and money in the process.
Currently, the BCCC Foundation is working to create an endowment for a scholarship program called Beaufort Promise, a last-dollar scholarship that would guarantee paid tuition and fees for four semesters for first-time college students who take 12 or more credit hours and maintain a 2.5 GPA.