For the first time in 3 years, BRTC saw an increase of 16% in students entering college for the first time, according to Registrar Kim Bigger. These students make up one fourth of the entire Fall 2016 class.
According to Vice President of Student Affairs Martha Nelson, “Solid first time entering student numbers, along with our excellent retention rates, help create a stable enrollment base for the college.” BRTC’s fall-to-fall retention rates, the rate at which students remain in college from one fall to the next, is 60%. The national average is 55%.
In addition, students transferring to BRTC from other colleges rose by 11% over last year. These numbers are part of the eleventh day snapshot figure the college reports to Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
While the overall Fall 2016 enrollment number of 1,561 is less than last fall’s by 184 students, Dr. Eric Turner believes new strategies implemented by the college are already working to improve student enrollment: “These increases in first time students and retention rates are indicative of the enrollment management systems which have been implemented in the last thirty months.”
BRTC is not the only college whose fall enrollment is down. Most colleges and universities across the U.S. are experiencing lower enrollment. However, Dr. Turner says this is not a bad thing for our local communities: “When the economy is less than ideal, people go to college to acquire and possible improve skill sets to prepare themselves to be stronger wage earners. That’s what happened during the recession of 2008 and enrollment soared. However, when the economy is good, there are more jobs and people go back to work. That’s what we are seeing now and this is a great thing for our communities.”
Dr. Turner says BRTC is already working to make college classes more accessible to working adults. “As the traditional college age student enrollment numbers stabilize,” Turner said, “the College is tackling how we can better meet the educational needs of working students more conveniently and effectively. Holding classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. does not work for these adults.”