POWELL, Wyo. - Northwest College’s several-year pattern of modest enrollment increases and occasional decreases was shattered last fall when its student numbers topped the state’s growth charts, according to a recent enrollment report released by the Wyoming Community College Commission (WCCC).
NWC’s student enrollment last fall grew to 2,198—a whopping 21% increase from fall 2008. The WCCC’s report shows the next highest growth was at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington which experienced a 12.7 percent increase; the state’s system of seven colleges averaged 4.7 percent growth.
In fact, Northwest’s one-year growth was more than it experienced in the previous eight years combined.
“While the additional 388 students challenged the campus,” said second-year President Paul Prestwich. “I was pleased with how smoothly the semester started and at how employees stepped up to accommodate the large increase.”
A combination of factors—the economic recession, a new scholarship program and a few new academic programs–appeared to fuel the increase, Prestwich said.
Nationwide trends show that community college enrollments grow in slow economic times—students stay closer to home, and many older students turn to college classrooms when they’ve lost their jobs or need to retool to make themselves more marketable.
"Rollout of the college’s new Trapper Scholarship Program last year gave prospective students an earlier and clearer picture of scholarship packages they’d qualify for,” Prestwich explained. “We know this new program, coupled with increased dollars from the NWC Foundation, really helped.”
He added that effective recruiting by faculty and staff, in addition to Admissions Office staff efforts, also contributed to the increase.
“Our new concurrent enrollment pilot program also resulted in almost 190 Big Horn Basin high school students taking college-level courses this year,” Prestwich said. Concurrent enrollment courses are taught by qualified high school teachers in their respective school facilities.
NWC enrolled just over 34 percent of Big Horn Basin high school graduates—up from 29 percent the previous year—and 144 of the college’s May graduates were from the basin.
NWC’s enrollment picture looks rosy for next fall as well. A mid-May estimate shows about 175 more students may enroll for the fall 2010 semester than did last fall.
“We’ve tried hard to retain entering freshmen into their second year and maintain recruiting efforts to attract a strong freshman class for next fall,” Prestwich said.