Fewer students this spring, data show

Enrollment up when adding in ‘flex’ entry, otherwise down 2.5%

After a small dip in spring student enrollment numbers, Del Mar officials are starting to fear that Hurricane Harvey will affect the college longer than expected.

According to Claudia Jackson, executive director of strategic communication and government relations, before Aug. 23, 2017, enrollment for the fall semester was up by 5 percent. After Hurricane Harvey, not only did DMC lose the 5 percent increase, but also 4 percent below previous semesters.

Total enrollment is up 1 percent this spring from spring 2017 when including flex entry students, Rito Silva, vice president of student affairs, told the Board of Regents at their Feb. 13 meeting.

The flex entry category includes students who enrolled in short-semester courses in fall 2017 but after the official census date. Those numbers are automatically added to the following semester’s total.

Including 944 flex entry students, DMC posted a gain of about 130 students over spring 2017, with 11,796 for spring 2018. There are 10,852 students enrolled this semester, a 2.5 percent drop from spring 2017.

Because the total increase, including flex entry numbers, from spring 2017 to spring 2018 is smaller than previous years, the school is facing budget woes from the change.

“This is not going to be a short term recovery process,” said DMC President Mark Escamilla. “There’s going to be some absent flows and migration patterns locally, moving from one county to the next.”

Jackson said this semester’s lower enrollment is related to Hurricane Harvey. There are many students who are deciding not to come back to school or have moved away because their houses could not be salvaged. Lack of enrollment can be seen the most in northern counties, which were hit harder than most. More reasons include the high demand of jobs available right now. With high employment comes lower enrollment numbers. Hurricane Harvey created more need for construction workers and workers to help repair damages. The money to provide for families simply becomes the main priority over education.

The dip in enrollment is also related to students younger than 18 being prohibited from taking continuing education classes, hence the lack of money coming in from those high school students, Jackson said.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall just before the fall semester.

“We thought we could earn extra funding from the state because we’re teaching more students and then suddenly three days later, we’re not,” Jackson said. “We have to figure out how we’re going to adjust budgets and faculty loans.”

Because the enrollment drop has affected revenue, starting in the fall, tuition will rise $3 for each credit hour the student is taking, meaning a $9 increase for a three-hour course.

Del Mar hopes to get enrollment back to where it was. Registration rallies will begin to take place in April, along with the comeback of summer Pell Grants.

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