KPC enrollment flat for 2017

Enrollment at Kenai Peninsula College is changing by staying the same, after years of increasing enrollment followed by years of decreases, the college welcomes the stability.

As of Sept. 11, this year’s enrollment is up only .6 percent according to the college’s Advancement Programs Manager Suzie Kendrick.

“We’re constantly monitoring how enrollment is looking,” she said. “KPC is up only .6 percent in head count, which we consider flat.”

Although enrollment is flat, credit hours have decreased by 3.9 percent, which means that the same amount of students are taking fewer credits.

The decrease in credit hours directly impacts the university’s financial health.

“Credit hours tells us the amount of tuition we can count on, because each credit has a tuition cost,” Kendrick said.

Although it may seem like a negative for the university, officials are looking at the flat enrollment and relatively small decrease in credit hours as a positive in the face of growing economic issues throughout Alaska.

“Basically, having a flat enrollment and just a slight downturn in student credit hours is something we are looking at as a big positive for us right now,” Kendrick said. “If you compare it to the other campuses we’re not doing too bad … For now, flat enrollment is a winning thing for us. It helps keep everybody’s momentum and spirits up.”

Kendrick said to combat the impending downturn, the college has been ramping up recruitment efforts.

“We have a pretty active recruitment team that is strategizing for more outreach, telling the KPC story to a wider audience, attracting more students to come to school,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick specifically highlighted the recruitment team’s push toward people who “decide to stay on the peninsula.”

“There is an outflux of people from the Kenai Peninsula and the population in schools is decreasing because of it,” Kendrick said. “…So our recruitment team has been revitalized so that the people who do decide to stay on the peninsula are aware of their options on the peninsula.”

In the past, KPC has seen worse enrollment numbers.

In 2015, there was a 9 percent enrollment decrease, in conjunction with an overall 3 percent enrollment decrease in the University of Alaska system. The college, though, has been, generally, in good health.

“We’ve been doing really, really well compared to most of the campuses in the system,” Kendrick said. “And we’ve been proud of the fact that we’ve been growing at a pretty rapid rate for the past six or seven years.”

According to Kendrick, officials at the college anticipated that enrollment numbers would flatten, but didn’t anticipate a simulataneous economic struggle.

“We knew things were going to flatten out a little, but we didn’t know we’d be slapped in the face with a big recession and all this budget uncertainty,” Kendrick said.

The Legislature approved a $8 million cut to the University of Alaska’s budget in June for the fiscal year 2018, down from $325 million the previous year.

In contrast, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which also funds the college, included a slight increase in the FY18 budget, appropriating about $824,000 this year, an approximately 5 percent increase over the previous year’s allocation.

“There’s going to be positions that are reevaluated or consolidated — attrition is not going to necessarily be addressed at every level,” Kendrick said. “We’re taking a look at doing things with less.”

The school is anticipating further downturn in enrollment.

“We’ve been bracing ourselves for double digit downturns,” Kendrick said. “… It’s a substantial cost to get a college education these days.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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