Enrollment numbers spur sense of urgency at local colleges

By Richard Dyer
Twitter: @RHDyer
Posted 3/31/20

The number of full- and part-time students enrolled at Central Arizona College is in a downward trend over the last 10 years, while Communiversity at Queen Creek and its partner educational …

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Enrollment numbers spur sense of urgency at local colleges


The number of full- and part-time students enrolled at Central Arizona College is in a downward trend over the last 10 years, while Communiversity at Queen Creek and its partner educational institutions report steady, small increases in the number of east Valley students.

Recent concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have put a damper on many of these, but local college officials have been actively recruiting to boost enrollment in a variety of ways, from attending events to meeting with prospective students.

“Overall we do hundreds of visits annually to local Pinal County K-12 schools, hundreds of high schools across Arizona, community events, GED-class visits, presentations and visits with local business and industry, and in turn seek any opportunity to promote CAC as a great place to be for students of all ages,” Dr. Luis Sanchez, director of Central Arizona College admissions and recruitment, said.

Local sites of CAC are the Superstition Mountain Campus, 805 S. Idaho Road in Apache Junction; and the San Tan Campus, 3736 E. Bella Vista Road in San Tan Valley.

CAC uses a customer relationship management system to e-mail information to prospective students --- which Dr. Sanchez said is a way to leverage technology to reach students quickly.

“Since its inception in 2018 we have been able to transmit thousands of automated e-mails and messages to prospective students to increase our interactions and communication for inquiring students. That is something that was not feasible in prior years, but is standard practice in our operations today,” he said.

Rio Salado College recruitment efforts at Communiversity at Queen Creek, 21740 S. Ellsworth Road, include hosting open houses for local high school seniors to tour the facility where they can complete college assessments including placement testing, learn about programs and services and schedule appointments with academic advisors and career counselors, Annette Flores, Rio Salado College marketing analyst, said.

Central Arizona College

Central Arizona College has been in operation for 50 years. It has five campuses and three centers in Pinal County, and offers associate degrees that transfer to all three Arizona public universities.

For the Spring 2020 semester, there are a total of 4,810 students --- 1,789 full-time and 3,021 part-time --- in the entire CAC district, according to statistics provided by Angela Askey, CAC’s executive director for public relations and marketing.

The college defines headcount as the number of unique students who are enrolled at the college in the given semester/year.

For the Spring 2020 semester, at the Superstition Mountain campus in Apache Junction, there is a 475 total headcount of students --- 98 full-time and 377 part-time; and at the San Tan Campus, 574 --- 85 full-time and 489 part-time.

Entire CAC district headcount statistics for the previous 10 fiscal years --- with Superstition Mountain (SM) and San Tan (ST) broken out --- are:

  • 2010: 14,249 (2,485 full-time) --- SM: 2,825 (114 full-time); and ST: 746 (17 full-time).
  • 2011: 14,214 (2,557 full-time) --- SM: 2,826 (118 full-time); and ST: 878 (21 full-time).
  • 2012: 13,638 (1,674 full-time) --- SM: 2,783 (117 full-time); and ST: 960 (29 full-time).
  • 2013: 13,270 (2,411 full-time) --- SM: 2,364 (191 full-time); and ST: 1,031 (30 full-time).
  • 2014: 11,471 (2,156 full-time) --- SM: 1,989 (146 full-time); and ST: 1,027 (24 full-time).
  • 2015: 11,083 (2,098 full-time) --- SM: 2,008 (144 full-time); and ST: 1,267 (63 full-time).
  • 2016: 10,776 (2,039 full-time) --- SM: 1,803 (112 full-time); and ST: 1,485 (57 full-time).
  • 2017: 9,962 (1,955 full-time) --- SM: 1,611 (87 full-time); and ST: 1,353 (58 full-time).
  • 2018: 9,127 (1,821 full-time) --- SM: 1,216 (94 full-time); and ST: 1,229 (59 full-time).
  • 2019: 8,738 (1,749 full-time) --- SM: 861 (59 full-time); and ST: 1,157 (59 full-time).

Examples of recruitment activities completed by CAC include attending the Arizona Fall Tour, Vaquero Rally Days, CAC campus tours, CAC application days, college and career fairs, CAC Welcome Back Breakfast, CAC counselor workshop, CAC Paloozas, college and career ready events, Elevate for Tomorrow (E4T), Veterans Stand Down, sci-tech events, College for Kids, job-shadowing partnership, trunk or treat events and fall festivals, CAC officials said.

“The recruitment cycle for the CAC team usually starts in May. We begin with an initial review of our prior year’s activities, to see what’s working, what needs to be tweaked, and how we can get better for future iterations,” Dr. Sanchez said.

“We use our review and goals for the new year to inform and map our strategy for the next year’s activities. All activities must align with strategic goals of the college and align with our operational plan for the given year,” he said.

Central Arizona College officials focus on Pinal County first for recruitment, Dr. Sanchez said.

“We focus on Pinal County first and foremost, then the rest of Arizona. Our recruitment cycles have a focus on high-touch recruitment experiences with students, to best engage future students. We are looking to target action-oriented results with prospects, helping guide them one step closer to becoming a student with CAC,” he said.

CAC officials prefer not to just set up a recruitment table, he said,

“We have tried to limit the just ‘setting up a recruitment table’ type visit, and focus more on action-oriented activities that are focused on access, equity and inclusion for prospective students,” Dr. Sanchez said.

Recruitment officials have recently begun partnering with academic programs to help directly promote courses and programs that are available across the district.

“There is nothing more valuable than having an academic-content-areas specialist partnering with our team to promote programs and course offerings to interested students,” Dr. Sanchez said.

Students presently enrolled also help attract interest in CAC.

“Oh, and don’t forget the increased use of our student ambassadors. Having current students tell their stories and experiences to future students is a very valuable opportunity for prospective students to learn about the college community,” he said.

Retention of students at CAC is another key factor in the recruitment effort, he said.

“Retention begins on day one of interaction for our team. We want students to get connected to CAC at first contact, to help relieve some of the stresses of navigating the college-going process. With this intent and purpose behind our activities, we believe we are encouraging more and more students to look at CAC as a great destination for their college experience,” Dr. Sanchez said.

Communiversity at QC

The Communiversity at Queen Creek is a higher-education center organized by Rio Salado College, in partnership with several other colleges and universities. Students can complete certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees through partner institutions, which are Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Ottawa University and Benedictine University Mesa.

Rio Salado College provides mostly online classes, while Chandler-Gilbert Community College offers in-person classes. Ottawa University provides pathways to bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and Benedictine University offers an in-person Master of Business Administration program, Ms. Flores said.

Rio Salado College

A total of 859 Gilbert, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Apache Junction and Gold Canyon students are listed in the headcount for 2020 for the Rio Salado College enrollments at Communiversity at Queen Creek, according to information provided by Ms. Flores.

Headcounts for students from those five east Valley communities at Rio Salado for the last 10 years are as follows:

  • Fiscal year 2010: 971
  • Fiscal year 2011: 1,321
  • Fiscal year 2012: 1,170
  • Fiscal year 2013: 1,154
  • Fiscal year 2014: 1,005
  • Fiscal year 2015: 1,090
  • Fiscal year 2016: 1,085
  • Fiscal year 2017: 1,111
  • Fiscal year 2018: 1,110
  • Fiscal year 2019: 1,120

“On average, approximately 16% of students in this population were enrolled full-time each year over the past 10 years. This is about 6% more than our typical student profile at the college,” Ms. Flores said.

Online instruction is the most popular modality for students living in the selected areas, with in-person coursework as the second-most popular option, she said.

“While Rio Salado is predominantly an online college with 600-plus classes and 130-plus degree programs, the college also offers print-based, hybrid and some in-person instruction outside of the Communiversity to serve local incarcerated re-entry populations, dual-enrollment high school students and employees who are taking advantage of Educational Service Partnership workplace training offered by their employers,” Ms. Flores said.

“On average, 100-200 students enrolled in Rio Salado customized (Educational Service Partnership) programs offered in partnership with Queen Creek employers like Salt River Project on Combs Road,” Ms. Flores said.

Rio Salado College recruitment efforts include:

  • Participating in Town of Queen Creek community events, including the annual Ice Cream Social, Spring into Queen Creek and Trunk or Treat.
  • Presenting at the Citizens Leadership Institute and Kiwanis Club.
  • Assisting Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce in planning its annual Education Summit, which brings local employers and educators together to address workforce needs.
  • Partnering with Elevate for Tomorrow, an event that brings hundreds of high school juniors together for a half-day of workforce soft-skills training and an education and employment fair.
  • Providing information, collateral and outreach to Communiversity customers who lease meeting rooms and use the Rio Salado Testing Center, which serves nearly 8,000 people annually, including local high school and GED students, TSA, Border Patrol, U.S. Postal workers and other test-takers.
  • Distributing posters, fliers and other communications with the Town of Queen Creek and other local establishments to display at their locations.
  • Working with the Town of Queen Creek to increase awareness about new programs and services using their Web, social media, newsletters and other marketing platforms.

Ottawa University

Enrollment statistics provided from Ottawa University were in a summer-to-summer 2018-19 spreadsheet.

They are:

  • Summer 2018: 20.
  • Fall 2018: 19.
  • Fall Two 2018: 30.
  • Spring 2019: Seven
  • Spring Two 2019: 15
  • Early Summer 19: 29
  • Summer 19: nine

Benedictine University Mesa

Benedictine University Mesa joined the Communiversity at Queen Creek partnership in 2019, so it has one year of data for its one cohort.

“MBA QC1, which has 10 students. So our total BenU enrollment at Communiversity is 10. A new cohort is expected to begin in May 2020,” Jessica Steadman Jelinek, Benedictine University Mesa marketing and communications manager, said.

“Our recruiting efforts come mainly from email and social media, from the main campus in Lisle as well as our Mesa and adult and graduate handles. BenU Mesa recently purchased a billboard in Mesa in hopes to increase recruiting efforts,” she said.

Chandler-Gilbert Community College

“Since 2014, Chandler-Gilbert has seen steady growth in Communiversity enrollments ranging from under 10 students during the initial year to over 200 in the current fiscal year,” Raquel Gonzales, marketing manager at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, said.

In addition to courses offered at Communiversity, Chandler-Gilbert Community College serves east Valley residents with certificate and degree programs at two other locations --- Pecos and Williams, she said.

“Queen Creek student population continues to increase as does the population growth of the area,” Ms. Gonzales said.

“Chandler-Gilbert Community College is proud to serve an annual average of over 19,000 students. For spring 2020, there are 80 students who were part-time at the Communiversity --- based on credit hours taken only at the Communiversity. There were no full-time students enrolled at this location specifically,” she said.

The number of students who have taken classes at Communiversity at Queen Creek since 2014 --- total part-time students with fewer than 24 credit hours; and students with more than 24 credit hours --- are:

  • 2014 --- five.
  • 2015 --- 200.
  • 2016 --- 290; one with more than 24 credit hours.
  • 2017 --- 316.
  • 2018 --- 242.
  • 2019 --- 197.
  • 2020 --- 220.

The statistics come from the Maricopa Institutional Research Information System, showing credit hours at the Communiversity in Queen Creek for fall and spring 45th day and weekly snapshot for spring 2020 as of Feb 1, 2020, Ms. Gonzales said.

Chandler-Gilbert recruitment efforts, according to Ms. Gonzales, include:

  • Participating in Town of Queen Creek community events such as the holiday parade, Ice Cream Social and the annual Roots N’ Boots celebration.
  • Regularly attending the Queen Creek Unified School District Business Partner Breakfast to learn more about the ever-growing district and network with local leaders and community members.
  • Participating in Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce’s annual Elevate for Tomorrow (E4T) and Education Summit.
  • Participating in high school events such as college nights.