Enrollment at BCCC Hits Five-Year High
A record number of students filled classrooms as Beaufort County Community College started its fall semester on August 19. The college currently has 1668 students enrolled in degree programs, the highest number since it exited the federal student loan program in 2015. The college surged past 600 full-time equivalent (FTE) students for the first time since the spring 2015 semester. The number of FTE students is what the State of North Carolina uses to determine funding for colleges. Enrollment for the fall semester is up 4.7% from 2018 and 11.5% from 2017. The growth comes at a time when many universities and community colleges across the state are seeing enrollments drop.
These numbers do not include enrollments in short-term continuing education training programs such as truck driving, first responder training and short-term healthcare programs.
The college attributes these gains to a staffed summer advising center, an increased number of tailored new student orientations, expansion of the Early College program into Washington County, increased marketing efforts, record scholarship awards, and the introduction of online registration and payment.
“We are excited to see our enrollments at a new high,” said Dr. Dave Loope, BCCC President. “Families across our service area are taking advantage of our transfer programs as an alternative route to achieving a four-year degree and doing so with minimal debt and faster than ever before.”
Transfer agreements with universities such as East Carolina University, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T University, and Elizabeth City State University mean that students are guaranteed to have their credits transfer, saving them time and money.
Many students are starting at BCCC before they even graduate high school. With the initiation of the Washington County Early College High School in 2017, BCCC has expanded the Early College program into all counties in its service area. Students at Mattamuskeet, Columbia and Beaufort County College High Schools now take college classes in their final years of high school so that after five years they graduate with both an associate’s degree and a high school diploma.
Also, BCCC has emphasized its Career and College Promise program, where high school junior and seniors from any high school or homeschool can take classes at the college for free. Students can start earning college credits so they can lighten their class load and financial burden when they get to a university.
During the summers of 2018 and 2019, the college offered a staffed advising center so that students could meet in person with a faculty member, helping them to register for the correct classes and ensure transfer. The introduction of online registration and payment has meant that students are registering for classes earlier, and that students who attend exclusively online do not have to come to campus.
“We have focused our efforts on advising so that students get into the classes they need, helping them get to a career or on to a university without wasted time and money,” said Dr. Loope. “I want to commend our faculty for working with our students to find the right path.”
The college has also expanded its marketing into more digital media to reach both parents and students, as well as increasing its presence in outdoor marketing with billboards. Since financial access was clearly a factor in previous enrollment drops, the BCCC Foundation has increased the number of scholarships it awards, reaching an all-time high of $165,000 during the 2018-2019 academic year.
“There are real financial barriers for our community that are not currently addressed by federal financial aid or our scholarships,” said Dr. Loope. “We are working on a scholarship program called Beaufort Promise that will close this gap. By eliminating obstacles, marketing, and focused advising, we hope to sustain our growth and ultimately grow the middle class in our service area.”