NIC battles enrollment declines

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LOREN BENOIT/PressStudents walk in and out of the Edminster Student Union Building at North Idaho College Tuesday afternoon. North Idaho College has seen a decline in enrollment since 2011. From the 2011-12 school year to the 2015-16 school year, NIC’s annual enrollment has dropped from 8,982 to 7,103 students.

North Idaho College has seen a steady decline in enrollment since 2011, but no panic buttons are being pushed.

College officials say NIC’s enrollment decline is on par with what other community colleges are seeing nationally due to a good economy. Also, a growing Kootenai County community is offering a steady stream of new students and students taking dual credits.

Kylene Lloyd, student services data and information analyst at NIC, said community colleges are very much impacted by the economy.

“When the economy changes, we’re the first to see an enrollment decline or increase,” she said.

Graydon Stanley, NIC’s vice president for student services, said the recession-fueled enrollment influx from 2008 to 2011 brought students who didn’t have direction and wanted to use financial aid to pay bills. Now that the economy is good and those people have jobs, NIC is getting more traditional students who are committed to finishing their degree or certificate.

“More students are coming to college wanting to get a degree when a few years ago school was just a place to wait,” he said. “Now we are focusing on keeping students in school rather than recruitment.”

From the 2011-12 school year to the 2015-16 school year, NIC’s annual enrollment has dropped from 8,982 to 7,103 students, a decline of 1,879.

Within that same period, the college’s full-time student enrollment has dropped from 4,874 students to 3,564, a 1,310 student decrease.

In response to lower enrollment numbers, NIC has been making cuts. Stanley assured The Press no one was laid off; rather when people left or retired, their positions weren’t refilled.

Lloyd said over the past five years, NIC has reduced its employment by 24 full-time equivalent positions — 10 in non-instructional positions and 14 in faculty positions.

Even though enrollment has been declining, Lloyd said NIC doesn’t foresee making a lot more cuts.

“The number of new students coming in is staying steady, so we’re not anticipating declines like in the past,” she said. “And our dual enrollment has gone up and we’re expecting that to help lead us to more growth in the area.”

Unlike enrollment, the number of students taking dual credits through NIC has gone up since 2011 — from 895 to 1,165 in the 2015-16 school year, a 270-student increase.

Stanley said the college is putting more focus on student advising and making sure students are staying on track and are motivated to be at school. He said recruitment has been focused on local schools, encouraging dual enrollment and other programs.

“We have a transition coordinator who spends time in local high schools and helps students navigate transitioning from high school to college,” he said. “There are many first-generation students that we want to convince that NIC is worth their time.”

“We have been meeting the needs of our dual credit course, whether at high schools or students coming onto campus. We’ve done fabulous with that but it will grow, and we have to make sure we stay on top of it.”

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