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August 13, 2013 8:14 am

EDITORIAL: Improving economy means fewer students on college campuses

Written by Tom Lawrence

An apparent decline in Northwest College enrollment may be for a very good reason.

Wait, we’re not knocking our favorite college. That’s right, this looks like it’s a good thing. The reason for our positive approach to this news is the college’s belief that a decline in enrollment is tied to a stronger national and state economy.

Currently, NWC is experiencing a 4.7 percent decline in the number of students registered compared to last fall. The drop in full-time equivalency, or FTE, at the college is anticipated to be about 4.2 percent. Full-time equivalency is the total number of credit hours taken by all students divided by 12.

More than 2,000 students, both full- and part-time, attend the two-year school. The figures fluctuate, of course, and for many reasons. One is the state of the economy.

When people cannot find good-paying jobs, some choose to enroll or return to college, both to improve their skills and make them more attractive to potential employers, as well as to use the time they have free from work to learn and grow as people. Both are worthy endeavors.

But at the same time, it’s good to hear further evidence that the economy, which has been sluggish since 2008, is improving.

The NWC estimate — classes don’t start for almost two weeks — is in keeping with a national trend that has been evident in recent months. The National Student Clearinghouse issued a report this spring pointing to enrollment drops at two- and four-year colleges and universities across the country.

Sean Fox, NWC vice president for student services, said the two-year college is in the same boat with other Wyoming higher-education facilities.

“When the economy does better, enrollments tend to go down,” Fox said. “In 2008-09, the economy took a dive, and enrollment went up. ... We think the economy is doing a little better.”

While the NWC Board of Trustees sliced $227,000 in this year’s budget compared to 2012-13, due to projected loss of tuition and fees, the college may not lose any state funding if student numbers drop on other campuses.

NWC is looking to fill the seats in its classroom.

It is reaching out to former students, asking them to consider returning to campus, and has also written to the parents of students who were accepted for enrollment, advising them there is room for their children on the Powell campus.

The college is still hoping some potential students may decide to enroll before school starts on Monday, Aug. 26.

“We’re saying, ‘It’s not too late. You can still contact us, and this is what you need to do,’” Fox said.

If anyone wants to return to college, we encourage them to do so. Education and an exposure to life on a college campus are both positive steps in a rounded life.

However, if they are not in class because they are working, especially in a field they wish to remain in for some time, we wish them well with that. There are many ways to learn in life, and some lessons are best grasped away from a classroom setting.

4 comments

  • Comment Link August 13, 2013 9:37 am posted by Mike Wilson

    Could it be that college tuition and expenses has increased like 200%+ over last decade?? Call it what it is instead of conjecture and opinion that economy is improving. Six months from now I hope we can all look back and comment on how the economy has improved for all of us. Doubtful.

  • Comment Link August 13, 2013 1:28 pm posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    Everyone can't, and don't need, a degree.Some are better off at a job where you actually get exercise instead of pushing a pencil.Plus Powell needs to get off it's duff and get some real leadership for once who can draw jobs and business's in,instead of relying on the same old cash cow.

  • Comment Link August 13, 2013 2:42 pm posted by clipstein

    the economy improving but not in Powell. all the negatives are catching up. fact the facts. powell has negative growth and so is the the college. Face the facts the good old boys have run the town into the ground and now who is negative?

  • Comment Link August 14, 2013 7:53 am posted by Salty Dawg

    Agreed with Clipstein on all counts.

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