Lake Land looks to turn around enrollment dip

2014-07-15T16:30:00Z Lake Land looks to turn around enrollment dipKAYLEIGH RAHN JG-TC Staff Writer JG-TC.com
July 15, 2014 4:30 pm  • 

MATTOON -- Lake Land College summer semester enrollment figures are down 4.9 percent over the 2013 summer headcount, making for the lowest summer enrollment figures in the past seven years. 

Tina Stovall, vice president for student services, said summer enrollment is down but departments are also working on ways to jumpstart fall 2014 enrollment, which is down 10 percent compared to the same time last year.

As for summer figures, 2,651 students are enrolled at Lake Land taking 11,819 credit hours, a 9 percent decrease in hours compared to last year.

"I'm noticing that the credit hours decreased at a greater rate than the headcount decreased, which is an indication that the students that we do have enrolled at the college are taking fewer credit hours than they were enrolled in during summer 2013," Stovall said.

Continuing students make up about 56 percent of the school's population this summer, however 172 fewer students returned for summer courses than in 2013. For that reason, Stovall says, the college has placed a focus on student retention.

"It's a lot easier to keep a student than it is to recruit a new one," she explained. "When we started fall semester this year we really looked at where the continued student enrollment was going and we really talked about how if you're down in returning students you can't make it up in new students. Financial challenges are a challenge for our students today."

Stovall named a few initiatives that have been put into motion over the past school year to help students pay off their student accounts. They've been given extended deadlines on a pay plan so they are able to register for next semester classes without a hold being placed on their accounts.

Lake Land officials have also tracked the levels of student aid applied toward tuition including the dislocated worker program and the federal Pell grant.

"The dislocated worker program provides great financial support for those who become unemployed to come back and receive additional education and training," Stovall explained. "In 2010 we had the highest amount of students sponsored by the dislocated workers program, which made it possible for 295 students who might otherwise not have been able to enroll."

That funding has been cut over the past several years with 67 students now enrolled under the program.

The Pell grant program provides need-based aid to students to provide post-secondary education for those who might be deterred otherwise, however the way it's been distributed has changed over the past seven years.

"In 2010-11 federal requirements changed, which allowed students to receive a second Pell grant during the summertime," Stovall explained. "That was only a two-year journey, and that opportunity went away."

Now, if a full-time student receives the grant for the fall and spring semesters they cannot receive grant funding during the summer.

"That makes a lot of difference in the students being able to pay for college," she said. "That can also be reflected in why we have more students taking fewer credit hours, because they are having to find alternate ways to pay for it other than financial aid."

On a statewide register, 10 community colleges have shared their 10-day enrollment figures and each reported downed headcount for the 2014 summer months. The average is a 7.5 percent decrease, Stovall explained. Eight of the 10 colleges have also seen a decrease in credit hour enrollment with an average of 8.9 percent decrease between those eight.

"We're watching closely and working diligently on our fall semester enrollment on a day-to-day basis," Stovall said. "We are running down about 10 percent. In April of this year we introduced several new initiatives that we are implementing this summer and we will carry on to the fall to focus on enrollment. One of the things we've done is reorganize our recruitment effort."

Kelly Allee, director of communications and creative services, presented several branches of the new recruitment campaign -- a $135,000 venture.

Billboard advertisements are up and feature outstanding high school students from the town where the billboard is located.

"The idea is you start at Lake Land, you transfer and you do great anywhere," she said.

The Web link featured on the signs had received about 1,100 hits by Monday. A second campaign focus is centered on the manufacturing program, which is featured on one of the college's TV commercials. The Web link featured on the commercial has received 1,600 hits.

The department will also distribute postcards to about 6,000 households and issue behavioral targeted online ads. Also, the school's YouTube ad received 950 views in one day, Allee added.

"We're also asking area companies to hang a banner outside their business that says they hire Lake Land College graduates," she explained. "Hydro-Gear and MasterBrand are on board, and we're going to be asking other specific companies that the technology division has forwarded to us."

The fall enrollment campaign will include Facebook and Twitter ads along with a new commercial that focuses on cost savings. Lake Land board member Doris Reynolds said she is pleased with the new commercial recruitment efforts.

"You've covered a lot of bases we haven't before," Reynolds said as officials discussed the issue at Monday's board meeting. "I really like it, and I think it covers the right audience -- it's young."

The commercial that will hit the air before the fall semester outlines the different avenues of possible cost savings for students at Lake Land compared to other post-secondary education options.

"Putting dollar signs in front of students -- especially the $43,000 out there -- is important," student trustee Christopher Walk said.

Contact Rahn at krahn@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6869.

Copyright 2015 JG-TC.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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