Ways to Increase Community College Enrollment and Fund Program Expansion

Finding quality employees is plaguing employers nationwide. One aspect of that struggle is procuring the necessary educational programming for individuals to receive training to match employer requirements. Community colleges are a natural resource to offer those services to support employers with customized programs at affordable costs for individuals.

After a decade of declining enrollment at community colleges, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports a slight enrollment increase of 0.5% in the spring of 2023 compared to one year prior. That momentum suggests now is an opportune time for community colleges to increase their enrollment and gain the necessary funding to facilitate programming or facility improvements.

Core Economic Development 

Community colleges are prototypical economic development instruments because they can combine workforce development training for individuals with customized training for businesses. They have intimate knowledge of local requirements and the resources to provide high-quality training to enhance the workforce’s knowledge and skills, boosting a company’s productivity.

Local community colleges are vital to a region’s business attraction strategy. Economic development agencies can market job training programs in their recruitment activities.  It showcases a collaborative relationship between private and public entities, giving companies confidence they will experience high support in the new location. 

Use these methods to increase your enrollment.

Community colleges experienced an overall 35% decrease in enrollment, from 6,351,609 students in spring 2013 to 4,079,830 in spring 2023. While the recent uptick is a positive sign, there is much an institution can do to drive that enrollment rate higher. 

Community Input

Residents will seek educational programming that matches their interests and abilities. Community colleges must communicate with regional businesses, local governmental entities and secondary school systems to understand the gaps between what is present and what is required. Local students may commute significant distances to attend educational programs at larger universities. Working with that institution to develop options to deliver their programming at the local community college could resolve employers’ needs while reducing residents’ costs.

Positive Marketing

Student debt is a critical concern for today’s working population and those entering the workforce are hesitant to enter a similar situation. Community colleges can offer cost-effective methods to procure well-paying, satisfying careers without spending beyond one’s means or incurring debt. In 2022, CollegeBoard indicated a public two-year college costs less than $4,000 per year, while annual costs at a public university were $10,940 and $39,400 for a private four-year college. Marketing that fact is crucial to drawing more students. 

Broaden Outreach Efforts

Community college enrollment used to primarily include college-age students investigating completing introductory courses and working adults seeking to enhance or change careers. Today, community colleges serve more younger individuals, including high school students. In 2021, 18.3% of community college students were under 18, up from 15.7% in 2019. Broadening the demographics a community college markets to can help drive admissions, specifically with dual enrollment programs where high school students take some classes at the community college. 

Innovative Programming

Combining community needs with staff and facility abilities into unique programming can be an incredible enrollment draw. Collaborating with nearby universities on dual admission programs can increase interest. Working with employers to create customized training programs can build a talent pipeline. Developing certificate programs that resolve employee needs in less than a two-year timeframe can also drive enrollment. Summer bridge programs can educate prospective students on possible options at the community college. Developing specific funds to assist potential students in critical support areas, like childcare, transportation, school supplies, tutoring and other services, can alleviate many causes that keep individuals from beginning or completing their education.

How to Fund Expansion Programs

Enrollment increases or program expansion require increased financial resources and Convergent can help with necessary fundraising. Convergent specializes in a feasibility study process to position clients for fundraising program success while procuring valuable information to help guide other crucial organizational decisions. Study results are critical to optimizing capital campaigns to secure funding for new programming, equipment or facilities. Convergent’s approach to both can position a community college as a regional asset.

One example of Convergent’s successful work occurred with Pellissippi State Community College. The school is Tennessee’s largest community college, with more than 11,000 students. With increasing enrollment, the school faced the prospect of insufficient facilities and support services. Convergent strategized with school leadership to develop a Student Opportunity Fund to assist students struggling to pay short-term costs, such as childcare and textbooks. With the knowledge gained through Convergent’s feasibility study, the college achieved its capital campaign goals, raising $14 million to assist students and fund its largest expansion in 44 years. 

Convergent Can Help Secure Investment in Your Institution

As workforce demands continue to frustrate employers, community colleges can provide positive solutions through targeted marketing, emphasized programming or new facilities, all requiring dedicated, long-term financing. Convergent has a proven approach to fundraising to secure the necessary investments to make those projects a reality. Contact us to discover how a Convergent feasibility study can position your institution for a successful capital campaign to meet your fundraising goals. 

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