Kenai Peninsula College is experiencing a 9 percent enrollment decrease this semester, reflective of the overall 3 percent enrollment decrease in the University of Alaska system.
It is a more significant drop Gary Turner said he has seen at KPC since becoming director of the college in 2002.
“Since then other decreases have included a 6 percent decrease in Spring 2004 and a 7 percent decrease in Fall 2004,” Turner said. “In Fall 2002 KPC produced 9,715 credit hours and in Spring 2015 we produced 15,129, a 56 percent increase. We’ve seen a lot of growth in 13-plus years.”
Until the fall 2015 semester, KPC, second only to Kodiak College — a college with 78 percent fewer credit hours — was one of the UA sites with the fastest growing credit hour production, Turner said.
If enrollment remains similarly low in spring semester, the college will have a $339,000 total revenue loss, Turner said in a previous Clarion interview.
That will compound an expected 4.5 percent decrease in funding from the state for FY17, as predicted by the Office of Budget and Management. In total KPC may expect up to 9 percent less in available funding next year or $689,000.
Turner expected the down turn.
He said he has been predicting a drop for a few years. Many UA sites have been slow to implement distance education as a way of teaching courses. Universities and colleges from Outside have been able to obtain students who may have otherwise entered the UA system because they offer more e-Learning options, he said.
“For a long time KPC had almost a corner on the market, but that has changed as more UA campuses offer more distance classes and more outside universities, for-profit and not-for-profits, are operating in Alaska,” Turner said. “The competition from outside universities has greatly increased over the last few years.”
There are ways to boost enrollment when numbers are down.
“We are increasing our recruiting efforts locally and statewide,” Turner said. “We will be attending more college recruiting fairs in Alaska and focus more efforts on the (Kenai) Peninsula.”
Turner also said he hopes to further expand KPC’s growing JumpStart program. The college is the only site in Alaska where high school juniors and seniors can receive a nearly 69 percent tuition waiver for lower level courses.
“We believe more high school juniors and seniors would enroll in JumpStart but it seems quite a few are not aware of the program,” Turner said. “We will be taking steps to get the word out more to parents and students than we have in the past. (UA) President (Jim) Johnsen held JumpStart up as a model across the state when he visited two weeks ago.”
Tuition accounts for the bulk of KPC’s revenue, Turner said. Some donations come from individuals and businesses, but not usually in large amounts, and a lot on Hesketh Island in Kachemak Bay donated years ago to the college is currently for sale, which may accrue up to $200,000 from the sale, he said.
Turner has been working with a group of KPC administrators and faculty since February on a plan that would cut up to 10 percent of KPC’s FY17 operating budget if available funds are low next year.
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