Returning student Deleon Cooper, right, registers for classes Thursday at Clovis Community College. Cooper and friend, Michael Davis, background, are both business administration majors. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Enrollment at the Clovis Community College dwindled slightly in the fall, but college officials anticipated the decline and are campaigning to patch the gap.
The number of credit hours logged at the college last semester was 6.6 percent lower than the 2004 fall figures, according to Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness David Caffey. It is not an unprecedented dip; since the college opened, enrollment has fluctuated from semester to semester.
“There are always peaks and valleys in enrollment, mostly due to the economy,” said CCC Dean of Student Services Michelle Schmidt.
But the economy was just one of a cocktail of ingredients that drove enrollment down in 2005, college officials said. Rising gas prices and increased job opportunities coupled with the threat of Cannon Air Force Base shuttering discouraged students from pursuing classes at the college, according to CCC Director of Marketing and Community Relations Lisa Spencer.
“We knew all these things would play a role if the enrollment decreased,” Spencer said.
“We’ve heard around town auto gas prices have affected a lot of people’s pocketbooks. At this point, they want to put food on their table rather than take an extra class,” she said.
Spencer said the college also lost potential students to Southwest Cheese, a multimillion plant that began Clovis-based production in October. More than 200 people will be employed at the plant once it hits full capacity, according to the company’s Web site.
Such jabs were topped with uncertainty over the future of Cannon Air Force Base. The installation — which some estimate contributes 30 percent to the regional economy — narrowly escaped a Department of Defense list for closure, but is in need of a new mission, or will face closure again in 2010.
“Like the rest of the community, we are anxiously,” Spencer said, stressing the adverb, “awaiting a decision on a mission.”
While Air Force officials sift through possible missions for the installation, Spencer and other college officials are taking a pro-active approach to the enrollment slide.
The deadline for spring semester enrollment has been stretched a week beyond the actual start of classes and extra effort has been pumped into advertising, according to Spencer. And recruiting has gone beyond the campus as several college employees are to be stationed at Wal-Mart this Saturday to hand out admissions packets, she said. The college has even temporarily extended its hours: Students can register for classes or browse through the bookstore from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, when the college is traditionally closed. Online services have also been pumped up in recent months, college officials said.
“We are always looking at the enrollment,” Spencer said.
“We want to be a community college — we want to be able to offer everything from an associate’s degree all the way to a yoga class. If a senior citizen wants to take a yoga class, we want to be that resource,” she said.