Hocking Board

Hocking College's Board of Trustees and Hocking College President Betty Young during the February 15, 2018 Board of Trustees meeting.

Hocking College’s enrollment numbers for fall semester 2018 show some good news and not so good news for the college: While total enrollment is up by 80 students from the same time last year, its full-time student total is down.

Hocking College spokesperson Tim Brunicardi provided the latest enrollment tallies Tuesday, showing the college’s enrollment was 3,471 as of the 15th day of the semester (when colleges in Ohio are required to report those statistics to the state). Brunicardi said that the enrollment breakdown he provided shows a positive break for the college for the most part, but with some “challenges.” In terms of the good, the college has eight new programs with a combined total of 100-plus students enrolled in those new programs. However, the college’s retention rate and full-time student population is down.

The community college in Nelsonville has struggled with declining enrollment since at least 2010, although in fall semester 2017 the college did report its first increase in enrollment in years, from 2,956 in fall 2016 to 3,391 in fall 2017, largely due to a massive increase in “college credit plus” students (high-school students earning higher-education credits in classes at the college who, on average, are taking two classes). That CCP number shot up from 91 students in fall 2016 to 832 CCP students in 2017, and up again to 1,110 students this semester.

Brunicardi said that Hocking College has pursued those CCP students actively, noting that, for one, these programs at colleges help keep down the cost of college for students and that the college expects that some of the students will continue to take classes at Hocking after they graduate from high school because they’ve already “got experience with our curriculum.”

Meanwhile, Hocking’s full-time student numbers declined by about 200 students this year, from 2,043 in fall 2017 to 1,777 in fall 2018. The college had 557 part-time, non-CCP students this year as of the 15th day, compared to 498 at the same time last year.

Hocking College is also struggling with retention, with about 62 percent of its students continuing from 2018 spring to 2018 fall, compared to 67 percent continuing from 2017 spring to 2017 fall.

Meanwhile, the college’s first-time (freshman) student total saw a slight decrease of 13 students, from 1,056 freshmen in fall 2017 to 1,043 in fall 2017.

Brunicardi said that the school also has a “couple new programs” that are awaiting final approval from the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Higher Learning Commission, including its cannabis lab testing degree program and its dental hygiene program. Brunicardi said the cannabis lab technician degree program should come online in January 2019.

Brunicardi added that the college is trying to add new programs each semester to attract more students. He also said that teachers in these programs are being hired at full-time status, rather than simply as adjuncts. The NEWS reported last year that the college’s full-time faculty and professional staff members that are a part of the college’s professional bargaining unit has slid from 158 such staffers in January 2015 to just 40 in early May 2018.

Brunicardi said Tuesday that Hocking is continuing to contend with a national trend of declining enrollments at community colleges during times when the economy is performing well (at least based on GDP and stock market numbers).

Ohio also has suffered from a declining trend in high-school graduates in recent years, which has affected community and traditional four-year colleges across the state.

Brunicardi explained that Hocking is attempting to improve its retention rate and enrollment in general through a number of new measures in addition to new programs. Those include offering a new cellphone application that reminds students to register for classes, and requiring freshman to take a mandatory one-credit hour’s worth of career counseling classes, which teach topics such as how to write a resume and how to network.

“What we want to help produce is graduates who are ready to go into the workforce,” Brunicardi said.

There was a discrepancy in the enrollment statistics in an enrollment report that Brunicardi provided to The NEWS  this year, specifically, noting that Hocking had 2,551 full-time and 850 part-time students in fall 2017, compared with 2,334 full-time students and 1,137 part-time students in 2018.

Hocking Admissions Director John Lucchesi (who was not employed at the university last fall semester) said that those statistics are not accurate; the statistics listed in this story were verified by Lucchesi as of Wednesday afternoon.

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