Recent years witness CCE enrollment dwindle as a consequence of reduced grants

Guilford College is suffering from a dramatic decrease in CCE enrollment. In 2011, the CCE program enrolled 1,307 students. Budget planners pinned the worst-case enrollment estimate for this year at around 1,000 students.

Only 814 students enrolled.

Despite the upward trend in enrollment prior to the decline, over the last three years CCE enrollment has dropped by nearly 40 percent. Less than four years ago, CCE students had multiple options provided by government grants to help pay for their education.

Those grants no longer exist.

“When you go to school here the first year, it costs you about $8,000 – 9,000 for the year, and you could go to UNCG across town for $6,000 per year,” said CCE student and SGA Support Coordinator Jeffrey Ray. “That’s a (big) difference in price.”

In 2011, the federal government cut the eligibility for Pell grants — a program that helps students pay for tuition —  by six semesters, capping the eligibility at 12 semesters total. This poses a problem for CCE students, many of whom are enrolled part-time and need more than 12 semesters to graduate.

The following year, North Carolina cut multiple scholarships and grants, including the NC Legislative Tuition Grant, to reduce state spending and minimize the state budget dilemma. Without this financial aid, the average cost for CCE students to attend Guilford jumped by 48 percent.

For prospective CCE students looking to attend Guilford, other less-expensive options look more enticing now that students receive less financial help. CCE students that started out at Guilford with enough resources to pay tuition now have to either pay higher amounts than they originally expected or drop out of Guilford.

“I have one class that’s going to cost me $3,000,” said Madison Lowe, CCE senior. “I don’t know where that money is going to come from.”

Now that current and prospective students may not have enough resources to study at Guilford, enrollment rates can no longer match numbers from only three years ago. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 45 percent of private four-year colleges could not meet their target enrollment for this year.

“What is happening at Guilford is not unique,” said Rita Serotkin, associate vice president and dean for continuing education. “It’s happening all over the country, and it has happened to a lot of other colleges.”

The CCE program’s administrators hope that focusing efforts on recruiting new students will help offset the enrollment drop.

“We need to do a better job of marketing our programs,” said Serotkin. “We need a better message than the one we have been putting out there.”

While advertising and recruiting can alleviate the issue, the program needs to retain current students as well.

“Retention,” said Monica Jones, CCE senior and president of the CCE SGA. “That’s what we’re keeping focused on too because we’re finding that a lot of the CCE students are coming in, but they can’t stay and can’t finish because of the lack of money.”

With enrollment on a downward trend, it will take time to build Guilford’s numbers back up. Despite bleak numbers, CCE leaders, including Jones, remain optimistic about the outcome of this situation.

“Don’t count us out. Our numbers may be down, but don’t count us out.  We’re still here.”