Expanding Saturday classes is a strategy to meet the goal.
By Sergio Medina
President Robert Vela said college employees must find ways to recruit and retain students in an effort to meet a target of 2 percent increase in student enrollment at this college by fall.
He spoke to about 150 faculty members during the Academic Success Kickoff Jan. 17 in Room 218 of the nursing complex.
The 2 percent target is a charge from the board of trustees to each of the Alamo Colleges to increase district budget and state funding, Vela said.
The percentage target is based on the enrollment count from fall 2018, which was 16,838 students. A 2 percent increase would translate into 336 new students.
“Every college is going to be expected to raise enrollment by 2 percent,” he said. “We’re going to have to focus on recruitment.”
Vela said meeting the target could prove challenging because of decreasing enrollment over the past few years at this college.
“We’ve been taking some pretty big hits in enrollment, right?” Vela said. “I mean, we were once at 25,000 (students in spring 2013). We’re at about 17,000.”
Vela said he believes some reasons enrollment has dropped is because students may find it more practical to enroll at a college closer to their homes, whether it is Northeast Lakeview, Northwest Vista or Palo Alto colleges.
“(With) the recent accreditation of Northeast Lakeview College, you know, we lost anywhere from 1,500 to 1,800 students that just said ‘we’re switching over,’ and rightfully so — they live on that end,” Vela said in an interview Jan. 22.
Vela said an effort by faculty attached to academic programs is encouraged to recruit more students.
“We’re going to need your help (faculty) to get more students in these programs,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we can increase enrollment by 2 percent; I think that’s reasonable, but it’s going to take the entire college.”
Dr. Jothany Blackwood, vice president for academic success, said in an interview Jan. 17 that administrators are looking at strategies to meet the recruitment target.
“We’re going to be looking for ways to advocate for our signature programs so students know what is unique at SAC, to learn here,” Blackwood said.
Blackwood said such programs include mortuary science, emergency medical technician, the fire academy and journalism.
She said reanalyzing scheduling patterns to allocate class times during peak student attendance is another strategy to look at.
“We are looking to increase our ‘Saturday @ SAC’ program so that students who have full-time jobs can come to school just on Saturdays, and in two years, in a hybrid model (online and in-person), they can complete an associate degree,” she added.
Currently, the ‘Saturday @ SAC’ program includes four degree plans: business, criminal justice, computer programming and teaching.
About 200 students enrolled in “Saturday @ SAC” last fall.
“We see it as a program that will continue to grow and have not set limits on that growth,” Blackwood said.
Furthermore, increasing online course offerings will be explored, Blackwood said.
Dual credit also plays a role in meeting the recruitment target.
“We’re looking at ways to meet the needs of dual credit — offer more certificates, working and building more relationships with high schools,” Blackwood said.
Vela suggested efforts be made by faculty to retain students in programs, motivating them to stay instead of transferring to another of the Alamo Colleges.
“The rubber meets the road when a faculty member is sitting there with a student and providing and delivering instruction,” Vela said.