Focusing on completion at community colleges

Community colleges’ strategic enrollment plans are distinctive from four-year schools’ plans, said Tamika Brown, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management at Peralta Community College District. Peralta Colleges are comprised of four colleges serving the East San Francisco Bay area in California.

“As a multi-college community college district we serve very diverse student populations and our funding model is based on FTES (student headcount at census) at a low tuition cost of $46.00 per unit,” said Brown.  Enrollments declines in good economies and rise in bad ones.  Community Colleges have to use innovation, workforce demand and student success strategies to maintain enrollment goals.  “We are the best deal in town and we need to leverage that. We can position ourselves to be the first choice, not the backup. We have Career Education that leads directly to jobs, basic skills, ESL, non-credit and transfer degree programs. Unlike four-year institutions, we have the agility to move quickly and be flexible in response to workforce demands.”

SEM plan is key to sustainability

In 2016 Peralta initiated an enrollment management task force. The task force included administrative and faculty leadership from all four colleges and the district. They undertook an environmental scan and took a deep dive into student data on retention, persistence, success and completion.

Based on the research data Peralta developed a strategic enrollment plan, the results of which are continuing to unfold. For example, they implemented the use of:

  • A business intelligence tool, to utilize course demand and improve classroom usage and optimize class scheduling.

  • In-reach campaigns to increase application conversion rates from apply to enroll, and improve persistence rates.

Both efforts have yielded measurable positive results.

“Developing a SEM plan is key to making sustainable change,” she added. “It encourages different units and departments to come out of their silos for one common goal: student success.”

SEM & performance-based funding

State of California community colleges may be moving toward a performance-based funding model with incentives for increasing the number of students graduating with degrees or certificates. With their SEM planning process, the Peralta Community College District feels confident about the future.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of financial resources to remove barriers to student success,” Brown said. “Strategically, if you can bring a task force together, you can implement change to increase student access and completion.

Brown will discuss Peralta’s changes and share relevant analytics in her 2018 AACRAO Annual Meeting session “Establishing Infrastructure in Enrollment Management at Community Colleges.” For this and much more targeted community college content, register now for #AACRAO18, March 25-28 in Orlando.