Enrollment to Drop at NWACC, Pulaski Tech

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 12:00 am  

Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville reported having enrolled 7,018 students for its spring semester as of Tuesday, down 9 percent from Jan. 14, 2013.  (Photo by Beth Hall)

The two largest two-year colleges in Arkansas are feeling the bite of constricting enrollment.

Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville are expecting another drop in enrollment figures. Official head counts are not reported until Jan. 28, the 11th day of spring semester classes, but the numbers are down at both schools.

It’s a nationwide trend, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which reported that enrollment at two-year colleges was down 3.6 percent in spring 2013 from the previous year and down 5.4 percent from the previous semester. The numbers for NWACC and Pulaski Tech are expected to be worse this year.

NWACC reported 8,020 students in the 2013 fall semester, a drop of 3.8 percent. Enrollment for the current semester is still active, but NWACC officials said the school had 7,018 students enrolled as of Tuesday, 9 percent fewer than the 7,716 the school had on Jan. 14, 2013.

“It is a little concerning that we’re seeing the negative trend,” said Todd Kitchen, NWACC’s vice president for learner support services. “It’s something we continue to pay attention to.”

Pulaski Tech saw its enrollment decrease by nearly 12 percent from 11,938 to 10,533 last semester, the first decrease for the school since 1991. This semester may bring the second.

Tim Jones, the associate vice president for public relations and marketing, said the school had preliminary enrollment numbers slightly more than the 10,533 from last semester before a recent purge of non-paying students. Cindy Harkey, Pulaski Tech’s vice president for student services, said the school had about 10,100 students enrolled as of last Tuesday.

“We’re hoping to make it to 10,500,” Harkey said. “We’re optimistic. It may be less.”

Harkey was able to joke about Pulaski Tech’s enrollment hit from last semester. After 20-plus years of increases, it was surprising but also not surprising, Harkey said.

“It’s a whole new world for us,” Harkey said. “We could tell by preparing enrollment that is was happening. We’ve seen the trend that it is happening nationwide.”

Steven Hinds, the executive director of public relations at NWACC, said the school has had two purges of non-paying students, the latest one Tuesday morning. It cut 194 students from the roll.

Officials at both school said the enrollment declines are the result of a combination of factors. The economy has stabilized and unemployment has eased a bit, officials said, so potential community college students have found the job market more attractive than the classroom.



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