Monroe Community College witnessed an increase in student enrollment for the fall semester. Officials expect the number of learners to stabilize and steadily grow in 2024.
Currently, 8,537 credit-seeking students are enrolled in courses– up 3 percent from 8,283 students a year ago. Based on early official numbers, MCC estimates an annual headcount of 19,000 students.
The uptick in enrollment reverses a decade-long downward trend. From 2012 to 2022, data from the SUNY system indicates, MCC enrollment fell from 17,000 to 8,000—a drop of more than half.
MCC’s challenge with enrollment is not unique. Community colleges across the region and the nation have struggled with drawing students to campus. In the decade ending in 2022, enrollment in community colleges nationwide declined from 6.7 million to 4.4 million, or roughly one-third, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
In the Rochester region, enrollment at FLCC, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Geneseo, and Genesee Community College has dropped 18 percent, 22 percent, 24 percent and 37 percent, respectively. Experts attribute the decline to reasons that include changing demographics and a sense of disillusionment with the postsecondary system.
Nationally, enrollment at public two-year colleges grew by 0.5 percent after two consecutive years of steep decline in the spring term (8.2 and 10.1 percent, respectively), according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Fields of study that saw growth include computer information sciences, mechanic and repair technology, personal and culinary services, and transportation and materials moving.
The center’s researchers speculate that the slight increase is driven by a rising number of younger students enrolled in dual-degree programs. MCC’s dual enrollment program, the College Now program, was initially accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships in 2008. According to the most recent data available, the program boasted over 4,500 students from 43 area high schools in the 2015-2016 school year, or about a third of all students enrolled at the institution that year.
MCC says it has been making efforts to align its programs with regional employers’ workforce demands, officials say, in addition to expanding and increasing access to wraparound supports.
In particular, these initiatives to increase student enrollment have impacted the college’s optical systems technology program. It has experienced record graduation rates in 2021-22 and 2022-23 coinciding with the demand for skilled manufacturing workers. The fall semester has 114 students enrolled in the program.
According to MCC, new supports, services and resources for students within the past year include:
■ Alignment of offerings – including those at the Finger Lakes Workforce Development (FWD) Center on MCC’s Downtown Campus – with the region’s workforce needs. New programs include robotics certification, Geospatial Information Science and Technology A.A.S. degree, and Hospital & Community Mental Health Tech A.A.S. degree.
■ Expanded tutoring and academic coaching.
■ A liaison for students experiencing homelessness and housing instability.
■ An additional mental health counselor to meet students’ social-emotional needs.
■ A health and wellness counselor who organizes offerings college-wide on topics such as suicide prevention, mental health awareness, health education.
■ Money Smart Financial Coaching Program to help students improve their financial health.
■ Personal Librarian service that provides customized outreach to first-year students – in person or via email, phone or chat – throughout a semester to help them achieve academic success.
■ Expanded holistic supports and referrals to community resources for MCC student-parents, a majority of whom are single mothers.
■ Women of Excellence program focused on helping historically underrepresented populations, particularly first-generation students and those from low-income families, successfully navigate in and outside the classroom.
■ Housing commitments extended to 12 months in on-campus residence halls, so students can stay during holiday, winter and spring breaks.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. Data visualization created by Jacob Schermerhorn, Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].