By BRYAN OROZCO
Enrollment at Pima Community College continues to fall despite efforts made by the college to draw in more students.
According to Pima spokesperson Libby Howell, enrollment has dropped down from nearly 63,000 students in 2011 to less than 50,000 students in 2014. That is about a 21 percent drop.
One student, Anna Sánchez has been at Pima on and off since 2007 and can see the drop in student numbers. “ It used to be way more packed,” she said. “Much more people.”
Sánchez had ideas about what the college should do to increase enrollment. “They should be more organized,” she said. “Maybe if tuition was less expensive.”
In 2015, Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal eliminated funding for Arizona’s community colleges, cutting $7 million from Pima’s funding.
The lack of state funding has prompted the college to increase its tuition rate by 8 percent.
In the summer leading up to the 2015 fall semester, Pima did take efforts to create a more robust ad campaign geared towards increasing student enrollment. In September 2015, PCC Marketing & Communications reported that the budget for increased advertisements was $434,700.
The enrollment management program has not stopped working to improve enrollment. Shawn Graham is program manager of the department and works primarily in outreach and recruitment.
“Believe it or not, a lot of people in Tucson don’t know what we have to offer at all,” he said. “But now that we’re out there, you can tell that they’re starting to notice us.”
The goal of outreach and recruitment is to get the word out about Pima and to increase enrollment.
Outreach events give the department a good sense of what the college needs and, more specifically, what it doesn’t have.
“When we go out we target older and mature adult learners,” Graham said. “We also target underrepresented populations: Native-Americans, Hispanics, African-Americans…” he added.
Graham says that the future for outreach and recruitment is to continue building a relationship with the community, though he is excited about a new Pima application and a student tracking system that will help guide and assist students, which the college is planning to implement.
Jennifer Mendoza has been a Pima student since 2013 and believes enrollment fluctuates from campus to campus.
“It depends what campus I go to. If I go to East Campus they are a lot more helpful in getting me enrolled,” she said. “But when I go to Desert Vista I don’t feel like they like to help people.”
The college has also made external efforts to sustain and increase enrollment, receiving grants to fund specific departments and make certain majors and career paths more intriguing to students.
For instance, a summer 2015 USDA Project AgriPATH grant focused on retention, graduation and transfer rates for students interested in a career in agriculture. It catered to the college’s Desert Vista Campus with its own garden and aquaponics system.
From ad campaigns to receiving grants, the college’s efforts however have fallen short for now. Only time will tell if these efforts will start to gain momentum, or if the college will see a continuing trend in there enrollment and lack there of.