At the last meeting of the CBC board of trustees, Dec. 13 — the last meeting of the year — Espinoza was able to tell the board that enrollment was up over the same period last year.
By almost 500 students.
Lower than expected enrollment the previous semester — attributed to Eagle Ford Shale labor demands — caused stringent budget cutbacks across the board.
To counter the trend, Espinosa formed a Strategic Enrollment Management task forced, referred to internally as SEM. Heading the 22-member task force is CBC’s director of public relations and marketing, Susan Smedley.
“I chose people from across the spectrum,” she says. “Pretty much every major area in the college is represented. We went into triage mode.
“Usually, higher learning institutes take 12 to 18 months to develop an enrollment plan,” Smedley says. “We are going to finalize and implement a five-year plan in a matter of months.”
Boil down the SEM’s organizational chart — which fills an 11-by-14-inch of paper — and the distilled product is customer service.
“If we provide better service,” Smedley says, “our enrollment will continue to go up.”
The first steps the SEM recommended were two-fold: start this semester’s enrollment two months earlier and encourage the faculty to resume recruiting students.
“Almost everyone I have talked to,” Espinoza told the trustees, “says, ‘we used to do that.’”
When classes resume Jan. 14, Smedley fully expects the enrollment to keep climbing.
“What we are doing this semester is only the first phase of SEM.”
The task force is recommending that CBC place a dean of workforce development in the Pleasanton campus, to offer more oil-and-gas-related classes there.
“We are looking at where the market demand is and how we should address that demand,” she says.
But workforce courses are more expensive to run than our academic courses, she says. “We can’t improve those without higher enrollment.”
Smedley gives high praise to Espinoza for SEM’s success.
“Keep in mind that CBC has had four chief executive officers since 2006. We’ve never had someone come in here and identify people who are willing to work and then tell them to go out and do it.”
Smedley says the SEM needs to obtain a three-semester cycle under its proverbial belt to see what has worked and what hasn’t.
“My catch phrase,” she says, “is that we have to stay in a sustained state of continuous assessment.”
The key is marketing, her bailiwick.
“How do we take what we already have and re-purpose it, re-design it, re-direct it and make it more accessible — but with no budgetary effect?
“If we have to reshuffle what our face looks like, then that’s what we will do. Because, at the end of the day, education is economic development. It’s that simple. If persons are going to have the opportunity to improve their lives, their standard of living, to provide a more secure life for their families, it’s incumbent on us to do everything we can to make that available to them. It’s an ethical obligation.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.