At their regular meeting Jan. 17, board members listened somberly as CBC President Dr. Beatrice Espinoza, announced that the latest enrollment figures showed CBC down 124 students from the same time last year — which equates to a $400,000 loss.
“We’re down,” she said.
Projected enrollments in December failed to materialize, Espinoza said, “because in some cases, the students were hopeful that they would pass their class, and didn’t.”
The Alice, Beeville and Kingsville campuses all reported lower enrollments; Pleasanton’s enrollment was slightly higher — by 15 percent.
The more positive result from the spring headcount was the number of students taking classes online — up 24 percent from last semester — despite what one staff member says has been a reluctance on the part of some teachers to adopt the new technology.
However encouraging, the loss of revenue kept the board’s attention, because the 2013 budget was based on a student body forecast to be higher.
“My concern,” Espinoza said, “is that we’re serving less than five percent of our service area population. There’s a lot more capacity — we just haven’t figured out yet how to tap it.”
She formed a strategic management enrollment task force last semester to combat the downward enrollment trend. It has just submitted a five-year plan focusing on students’ enrollment, retention and completion.
It also is calling on the progress of each student to be examined monthly and to pair the role of faculty advisers with student recruitment activities to mentor students who are within 15 semester hours of completing to assist them with any academic problems with which they might be struggling.
At the task force’s recommendation, CBC started its registration this semester earlier, and aligned the publication date of its catalog to coincide with other institutions of higher learning.
Espinoza says she already has started to address the issue by giving full-time faculty a full load and cutting back on adjunct professor contracts.
That the 2014 budges process begins next month is adding pressure for immediate action.
Finally, Espinoza addressed the proverbial elephant in the room:
“If we’re saying this is our real number of students, partly because of the demand for workers at Eagle Ford, then we’re going to have to figure out what our real size is. Either we have to re-size to fit the lower numbers or we have to work really hard to find students.”
While acknowledging that the Eagle Ford Shale oil boom was robbing CBC of potential students, board chair Paul Jaure said the college needs to get across the message that the boom’s requirement for personnel is shifting. “Now the need is for higher-paying, middle-management positions and they require better training.”
“I don’t know how you accomplish this,” he said. “Maybe we should be using companies such as Conoco or Marathon to have their people go to high schools to tell students the kind of college training they need to work for them.
“Somebody, somewhere is going to be training them.”
Failure to find those students, Jaure told the board, eventually would mean staff cuts.
“We’re doing a great job here with what we are doing,” he told the board. “But, at the same time, we’re a business. We can’t keep the doors open if we keep doing what we’re doing now. The reality is that somehow we need to look harder at the people who work for us. It’s not easy. People are worried about their jobs. But if we don’t do it, we’re in trouble.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.