Though the pandemic limited face-to-face instruction, Northwest College saw one of the smallest drops in enrollment during the fall 2020 semester among Wyoming’s seven community …
Though the pandemic limited face-to-face instruction, Northwest College saw one of the smallest drops in enrollment during the fall 2020 semester among Wyoming’s seven community colleges.
The college’s headcount was 1,443 students, a 1.2% decrease from the fall 2019 semester. Only Casper College fared better with a 0.4% increase in enrollment between the two semesters, and the average for the state’s seven colleges was a 7.3% decrease.
NWC’s fall 2020 full-time equivalent (FTE) count was 1,204.8, which takes the total credit hours enrolled of all students and divides it by 12. The college’s FTE was down 4.9% from the previous fall, which was third-lowest in the state. Wyoming’s community colleges had an average drop of 6.3%.
It was a promising outcome for NWC, which has seen its fall headcount drop 33.6% over the last 10 years — the steepest decline in the state. All colleges have seen a drop in that time, with the average being 22.5%. Northwest College’s FTE in that time dropped 43.5%, which was also the highest in the state amid an average drop of 25%.
In the fall 2020 semester, NWC had the highest percentage of students ages 18 to 19, at 30%. Another 27% of those enrolled at NWC in fall 2020 were under 18.
Of all the state’s colleges, NWC had the highest percentage of student headcount from border states and other countries, 12% and 3% respectively.
“That has been typical for a number of years, but those are the populations we really tend to draw, compared to the rest of the colleges,” NWC Institutional Research Manager Lisa Smith said during the college’s monthly board of trustees meeting.
NWC also had high portions of its headcount enrolled at the full-time level or higher. At 23% of the headcount, the college had the second-highest portion of students taking 12 to 14 credit hours, and at 19%, it had the highest portion of students taking 15 to 17 credit hours. One in 20 students at NWC was taking 18 to 20 hours, which was one of the highest in the state.
“A lot of our students take that full-time course load,” Smith said.
Students at NWC are primarily going with the goal of transferring to four-year institutions. Nearly half of the headcount was enrolled for that purpose, which was the highest in the state. The college had the smallest percentage of students majoring in career and technical-education programs, at 15%, as well as the smallest percentage of students not seeking any degree or certificate, at 36%. Most of those, Smith said, are dual and concurrent enrolled students, who are still in high school.
The State of Wyoming provides a pot of money to the Wyoming Community College Commission, which is then divided up among those seven colleges according to a formula that includes FTE and the level assigned to courses in which students are enrolled, as well as many among other factors.
The colleges have four levels of instruction. Level 1 are lecture classes, and level 2 are lab courses. Level 3 are high technology classes, which receive the highest funding amount. Level 4 classes are distance learning and receive the lowest funding amount.
Northwest College had the highest percentage of level 1 and level 2 FTEs of all the state’s colleges, and the lowest of level 3 and level 4 students.
These figures are based on how the classes were originally scheduled prior to the COVID shutdown. Even though many classes moved to online formats, the state funding for fall 2020 is based on how the classes were originally scheduled before the pandemic.
At NWC, 32% of the total headcount was made up of dual or concurrent enrollment students, 10% were enrolled in developmental courses, and 54% were distance learning.