Schools hustling to keep up with fall enrollment increases

Freedom New Mexico: Tony Bullocks Financial aid specialist Desiree L. Garica , right, trains TymberLee Durham, 16, of Clovis on filling out financial aid verification worksheets Friday at Clovis Community College.

Argen Duncan

With Eastern New Mexico University and Clovis Community College expecting significant increases in enrollment this fall, employees from both institutions are scrambling to keep up, officials say.

Lisa Spencer, director of marketing at CCC, said the school had 1,025 students enrolled for the coming fall semester, compared to 667 this time last year, an increase of almost 54 percent.

At ENMU, President Steven Gamble said he anticipated an enrollment increase of 8 percent to 9 percent this year.

“Very simply, our people are just working hard,” Gamble said of how staff is coping.

Instruction begins Aug. 18 at ENMU and Aug. 23 at CCC.

ENMU Vice President of University Relations Ronnie Birdsong attributed the increase to good recruiting and the university’s reputation. She also said more transfer students were coming from Florida because of expansion at Cannon Air Force Base.

Also, in an economic downturn, Birdsong said, more people attend school because they’re out of work or just want to improve their skills.

For CCC’s rising enrollment, Spencer credited online courses and classes that offered dual credit for high school students for the increase, followed by Cannon’s expansion. She said CCC’s information technology personnel worked with Google so the college’s website would be more likely to come up in certain searches, and people around the nation are interested in the school because of the affordable tuition.

Gamble said the university’s budget has been cut by more than 17 percent in three years while he expects its growth for the past two years to hit 17 percent to 18 percent this year. That makes providing good service and education a challenge, he said.

Spencer also said CCC’s budget and growth made for an “interesting mix.”

With demand for courses, officials are expanding as far as resources allow.

“We’re keeping up so far,” CCC Executive Vice President Becky Rowley said.

Many students enroll the week before classes start, so Rowley expected to know better how well the college could meet the demand at that time.

“We continue to add sections of different classes as we need to, as enrollment grows during registration,” said Rowley.

Many full time faculty members teach an overload, and part-time faculty members may be asked to teach more than usual, she said.

However, Rowley said, the college has limited space and faculty. If the college can’t provide enough space for certain classes, students can still enroll, but may not have their ideal schedule, Rowley said.

Gamble said ENMU has closed a number of classes because they have reached the maximum capacity. In some cases, administrators raised the number of students allowed in a course or added an extra class.

If a class a student needed was full, he said, the student could wait until another semester or, if a senior needed the class to graduate, administrators would make sure he or she was allowed to take it.

“We take academic advising very seriously, so we talk through each situation and try to handle it as best we can,” Gamble said.

The president said he’d heard no complaints about slow financial aid, and CCC Director of Financial Aid April Chavez said her personnel were keeping up with the workload.

Chavez said they tried to use the computer system efficiently and communicate changes well.

“For the time being, the system seems to be working well,” she said.

Spencer said student workers were helping streamline registration and financial aid processes by doing intake before sending their peers to university employees to complete the process.

Back at ENMU, Vice President for Student Affairs Judith Haislett expects to have on-campus housing filled to capacity.

Haislett said her staff members have called students signed up to live on campus to confirm they’re coming or to learn if they’ve changed their minds and the room can be reassigned.