Enrollment down for spring semester

Photo by AMANDA CASTRO-CRIST | The Ranger Students walk to class on the Washington campus.

Photo by AMANDA CASTRO-CRIST | The Ranger Students walk to class on the Washington campus.

Amarillo College enrollment is down for the 2013 spring semester. According to Bob Austin, vice president of student affairs, it was to be expected.

“This past fall was also down, and spring enrollment tends to follow,” Austin said.

Austin said the decrease is not a monumental issue and that though enrollment during the past five years has been fairly flat, the general trend of enrollment for the past 15 to 20 years has been up. AC institutional research shows enrollment for the current semester is 10,290, down 354 students from last year’s spring enrollment of 10,644 students.

Austin said many factors affect enrollment. When the economy recovers, more people who would be students choose to return to work.

Sammie Artho, associate director of advising, agreed that the economy affects enrollment but said her department adapts regardless if the change in enrollment is an increase or decrease.

“We just do our best to keep up with what our students’ needs are,” Artho said.

She said the activity in the Advising Center stays steady because advisers not only offer advising to new students but also provide transfer, disability, social, testing and adult student services.

In addition to a recovering local economy, Austin said the main reason enrollment is down is because of a change the college made regarding registration.

“The institution made the decision to stop enrolling students after the first day of the semester,” he said. Austin said that the last semester late registration was offered, more than 500 students enrolled after the first day of classes. Late registration causes some students to miss the first few meetings of class, and Austin said that can put students at risk academically.

At least one student disagreed with the college’s decision to discontinue late registration.

Susan Hartfelder, a forensics major, said she was working in Palo Duro Canyon when registration began and had no Internet access, which caused issues when she finally was able to complete enrollment.

“I had to split my classes into two semesters,” Hartfelder said.

She said she has noticed a decrease in the number of students in her classes.

“My smaller classes are now nonexistent, and my bigger classes have shrunk,” she said.

Many people around campus do not think the decrease in enrollment has affected activity at AC.

“Spring semesters are always lighter,” said Joseph Marcum, a physical therapist assistant major and student worker at the Washington Street Campus bookstore. “In fall semesters, all the high school graduates are coming in, but students tend to take lighter course loads in the spring.”

Marcum said that in the four years he has worked at the bookstore, that always has been the case.

Susie Regan, an assistant in career and employment services, also said she has not noticed a significant change in activity.

“Career services are more in demand at certain times throughout the year,” Regan said. She said there tends to be more of a change month to month rather than by semester.

Susan McGee, coordinator of the Library Learning Commons in Lynn Library, said, “We’re just as busy as we were in the fall.”

McGee said that each year, as students become more familiar with ever-changing technology, library personnel expect to have a drop in activity, but it never happens.

“People still need our services,” she said.

Ethan Ortega, an English major and a student tutor in the Writers’ Corner, said the drop in enrollment has not affected the writing center.

“Attendance is down,” Ortega said. “Our numbers are up.”

He said his boss, Writers’ Corner Coordinator Charlie Clark, told him they already have completed 39.6 hours of tutoring this semester. Last January, they completed only 10.9 hours of tutoring.

Austin said that regardless of this semester’s numbers, he is optimistic that enrollment will increase in fall 2013. He said this spring brings to a conclusion a seven-year program called GEAR UP. The program has followed students from the Amarillo area since their seventh grade year and has implemented procedures to help them develop a college-going culture.

The students will graduate from four participating high schools – Caprock, Palo Duro, Dumas and Hereford – and Austin said they are expected to cause enrollment numbers to increase significantly in the fall.

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