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Enrollment continues to drop; committee created to find solution

President Margie Martyn speaks about the drop in enrollment at the annual State of the College address. (Photo/Antonio Garcia)

President Margie Martyn speaks about the drop in enrollment at the annual State of the College address. (Photo/Antonio Garcia)

By Antonio Garcia

Harold Washington College enrollment hit a five-year after after losing 1,318 students in the span of a year, urging for an enrollment committee to determine the issue. 

“I think it’s important that we look at enrollment and figure out what is going on,” said President Margie Martyn at HWC’s State of the College meeting, Feb. 9.

HWC’s lack of funding for marketing, and the counter-cyclical relationship between enrollment and unemployment are possible reasons for why enrollment is down, according to Martyn. 

Enrollment remained relatively consistent at HWC between 2012 and 2016, with new student enrollment fluctuating between 36 percent and 38 percent and returning student enrollment varying between 36 percent and 38 percent, according to statistics presented at the meeting. 

However, two years after City Colleges of Chicago's Board of Trustees approved a new tuition structure that increased costs for part-time students, returning student enrollment dropped by eight percent from 2015 to 2016, while new student enrollment decreased by 17 percent from 2015 to 2016. 

The declining enrollment figures called for a student enrollment committee, as mandated by Local 1600 Cook County College Teacher’s Union contract. The committee will be headed by HWC English professor Maria J. Estrada. 

Consisting of six HWC instructional, non-instructional and administrative staff, the committee will study enrollment trends over the past five years and assess what impacted HWC’s enrollment, and find ways to fix HWC’s declining enrollment, according to Martyn. 

Estrada and the committee will also reach out to to high school students, as a way to increase HWC’s marketing efforts. 

“I [also] think we should poll [students] who left [Harold Washington College] and ask why [they] decided not to come back,” she said. 

Students who relied on MAP grants in order to fund their education, and did not receive them because of the Illinois budget impasse, were unable to return to HWC, according to Estrada. She, other HWC faculty and students plan to raise awareness amongst state officials on these issues in Springfield, April 27. 

She also cited the tuition hike of 2015 and the budget freeze, which defunded many departments throughout CCC, including the cancellation of some art and music classes at HWC, as possible causes of low student enrollment.  

Estrada also spoke about Chancellor Cheryl Hyman’s reinvention initiative that called for consolidation of programs throughout CCC and labeled HWC the business school. 

“One of the problems is that students say ‘Well why should I go to HWC, it’s the business school?’” she said. 

“The goal for everyone [on the committee] is to increase enrollment and offer a quality education for everyone,” added Estrada.

The enrollment committee’s first meeting was March 7.

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