President speaks about falling enrollment and student retention

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Dr. Robert Vela, president of this college, reports on the state of the college, including enrollment increases, at the SAC convocation Aug. 22 in McAllister. Vela shows the increase of full-time and part-time student enrollment, saying that full time students are doing well but asks how to engage part-time students to raise graduation rates. Photo by Deandra Gonzalez

Saturdays at SAC will open this fall with three degree options.

By Austin P. Taylor

President Robert Vela told faculty and staff at convocation Aug. 22 that the college needs to do a better job retaining first-year students and catering to the needs of part-time students. 

This college hosted the event in the auditorium of McAllister Fine Arts Center to discuss the upcoming academic year.  

“We know that we’re losing about 40 percent of our first-time-in-college (students) within that first year,” Vela said. “That’s a major cause of concern for us because we need to do a better job.”

Vela stressed the importance of being able to help all students, even if it means that they will take fewer courses.

Kayla Salwey, student government association president, shares her goals for the upcoming semester at the SAC convocation Aug. 22 in McAllister. Salwey said that she wants to make transfering less painful, focus on student success and a voice for students. Photo by Deandra Gonzalez

Enrollment for the fall semester has been on the decline since 2010. The 2016 fall semester saw 19,555 students enrolled, with 2,512 of those students being enrolled in Start 2 and Flex 1 and 2 courses. This means the total enrollment for the 16-week fall semester of 2016 was 17,043. In fall 2010, the college had a total enrollment of 22,056 students.

“This is a little unusual for Texas because for the most part Texas has seen growth in community colleges,” Vela said. “But we tend to mirror what the national trends would say, and we’ve been taking a slight decline.”

Student persistence is another key factor in enrollment, he said. Vela said 60.7 percent of full-time students and 42.1 percent of part-time students in their first year go on to the next academic year. The target numbers for student persistence are 68.7 percent for full-time students and 48.3 percent for part-time students.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie said he believes the problem with enrollment and overall student retention lies in the current approach to advising taken by the Alamo Colleges.

“We need to have students make up their mind from the very get-go,” Leslie said. “We can’t let them wait until later on in their sophomore year.”

Leslie thinks making sure students know where they want to go in life will help them in the long run. It will help the college more efficiently serve them by helping students enroll in the right courses for their career choice and avoid taking classes they don’t need before they transfer.

Vela outlined a new program, Saturdays at SAC, in which students can get a degree by taking classes on Saturdays.

Three degree programs beginning this semester will allow students to earn a degree by taking hybrid courses on Saturday for two years. The degree programs are Associate in Arts degrees in criminal justice and business administration and Associate of Applied Science degrees in computer programming.

The SAC American Sign Language Glee Club signs “Holding Out For A Hero” during the SAC speech team skit at the SAC convocation Aug. 22 in Mcallister. The ASL Glee Club promoted this year’s 2017 SAC Giving Back – Employeed Giving Campaign, which is a campaign that gets SAC faculty and Staff involved in donations and internships that go to SAC students. The campaign opened Aug. 22 and will close Oct. 16. Photo by Deandra Gonzalez

This college has seen an increase in graduation rates over the past seven years, and the data shows many students who go through the Alamo Colleges perform better after transferring to senior institutions than other students.

The performance of former Alamo College attendees was measured at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University-San Antonio and Texas State University.

At those three colleges, results showed at least 76 percent of former Alamo College attendees had a GPA of 2.0 or higher in their first year.

Of the students in this sample who attended this college, 83.09 percent attending UTSA had a GPA above 2.0, 83.17 percent at TAMU-SA had a GPA above 2.0 and 79.31 percent at Texas State had a GPA above 2.0.

Vela stressed how important the achievements of the faculty and staff are to this college.

“It’s going to be tough,” Vela said. “They’re going to be challenges, but I believe that we all have the ability to work together in a very collaborative fashion to ensure that our goals are met for this college,”

The full presentation for the 2017 convocation will be posted on Vela’s webpage.


The SAC Speech Team preform a short skit potraying a new students getting tips about coming to this college at the SAC convocation Aug. 22 in McAllister. The new student in the skit was given information about the many opportunities and programs this college has to offer, which included the writing center, the math labs, and student organizations on campus. Photo by Deandra Gonzalez


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