Times of economic crisis generally lead to substantial enrollment growth at community colleges, and leaders at Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin are working quickly to adapt their curriculum to emerging workforce needs.
They are developing academies and boot camps in emergency medicine, healthcare, IT and other fields that have been put under pressure by the coronavirus outbreak, Provost Turina Bakken says.
“When those industries need to react quickly, we’ll have an academic product ready to serve folks who need those additional skills,” Bakken says. “We’re building a portfolio to be as agile and responsive as possible.”
Madison College saw its highest-ever enrollment in the 2010-11 academic year following the Great Recession.
More from UB: Will community colleges see enrollment boost?
“We think the surge in career changers and skill builders may be a little slower this time —it may trickle in rather than cause a big spike in enrollment,” Bakken says.
Looking toward the fall, Madison’s leaders are now planning for everything from an increase in enrollment to a drop between 5% and 20%.
The school has ramped up social media and digital media marketing to first-year students who no longer want to go out of state and to potential transfers from four-year institutions, Bakken says.
San Jacinto College outside Houston has moved all of its advising services online, with extended hours, to answer prospective students’ questions. The college has also set up drop boxes for students who have to turn in hard-copy documents, such as financial aid applications.
To maintain enrollment in spring 2020 when the campus closed, college staff called over 11,000 students to encourage them to complete courses and consider enrolling in the summer.
“I hope the predictions are true that students will want to stay closer to home this year,” San Jacinto President Laurel Williamson says. “We’re all used to working with some level of ambiguity— that’s all we’ve got now is ambiguity.”
UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.