By Madeline Groschen
If Cambridge halls and classes seem more bare than usual, it is because the campus has experienced a drop in student enrollment.
Cambridge campus has dropped from a peak of 2,800 students three years ago, to 1,900 this fall, according to college data.
Spring enrollment is currently at 1,445 students. That number is likely to rise before the semester begins, but it’s 18.5 percent lower than at this time last year.
Research Analyst Jennifer Pearson Hennen, who tracks enrollment trends for the college, said enrollment began climbing around 2008 and peaked in Cambridge in fall 2010.
“The economy and unemployment played a large part in that growth, but since then, enrollment has gone back down to 2006-2007 levels,” she said.
Professor Andrew Aspaas is in his ninth year at ARCC and teaches Chem 1020 with an average class size of 50 to 70 students and Chem 1061 with 30 to 40 students.
When asked if he has noticed a drop Aspaas said, “Definitely there are fewer students in my courses and there seem to be fewer bodies in the hallways in the past year or two. Of course it’s great that the economy is recovering but as more people go back to work, that sometimes makes for fewer students at community colleges. We are also seeing the effects of fewer students in the K-12 systems in our region.”
Aspaas believes it is not only ARCC that has been affected. Hennen has access to other MnSCU trends and said that ARCC is not alone as enrollments in schools go down.
Students involved in clubs are also experiencing the downsides to fewer students. Yerko Besmalinovic is in his third semester at ARCC. He is the President of Student Government, Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa, and Representative for Metro North Regional Governing Council.
He said, “The clubs are having a hard time getting started.” He also mentioned how Student Life funds may need to cut down on club funding for the lack of students participating in clubs.
While student clubs are not filling, Besmalinovic said that club participants have been showing up to meetings and involving themselves in the community by volunteering.
With thoughts on what ARCC could work on, Aspaas said, “We need to work to strengthen the sense of community with our students so they participate in more activities on campus, and we need to think strategically about what the Cambridge campus does well and ways we can improve to serve the students of this region including stepping up our recruitment efforts at feeder schools and figuring out what new opportunities there are for programs that can serve adult students as well.”
Hennen said the ARCC administration is figuring out how to fight the drop in enrollment by “addressing barriers to admission and enrollment.”
ARCC will continue to keep up with enrollment trends while figuring out what the school can do to change them. Hennen said, “ARCC’s mission is to provide the best possible service to students, so we are doing as much as we can with the resources we have available.”