Enrollment on the rise at PDCCC

Published 6:09 pm Friday, June 24, 2022

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By Meghan McIntyre

Paul D. Camp Community College is seeing a resurgence in student curriculum enrollment rates after four years of decline. The two-year public institution is also ramping up short-term workforce programs to provide for a growing population of adults looking to improve their skills.

PDCCC’s 2022 summer semester enrollment rates rose 12.8% as of June 6 compared to the same date last year, according to Jeffrey Zeigler, director of institutional advancement at PDCCC, in an email. He said enrollment for the fall 2022 semester is currently underway and already sees an increase of 3.4% compared to the same date last year.

The rise in enrollment means the opportunity for more state and local funding, which PDCCC can use for student activities and hiring full-time faculty, Zeigler said.

One of the factors for the 9% enrollment decline from fall 2018 through 2021 is due to a drop in birth rates around the time of the “great recession” in 2007-08, Zeigler stated. This, in turn, has led the traditional college-age demographic of 18-24 year olds to shrink.

The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) as a whole is now experiencing an increase in the number of adults turning to these institutions, said Jim Babb, interim assistant vice-chancellor for strategic communications for Virginia’s Community Colleges, in an email. This is to gain skills that will help them gain or regain their footing in the rapidly-changing U.S. economy.

PDCCC saw a 23% increase over the past year in short-term credential training courses through its Workforce Development Center’s FastForward program, Zeigler stated. Credentials are offered in careers ranging from healthcare, to IT and advanced manufacturing.

“A lot of adults don’t have time for a traditional years-long college experience,” Babb said. “People come away with skills they need to get family-sustaining jobs.”

The VCCS has also seen a 9% increase in G3 course enrollment since being enacted by the General Assembly last fall, Babb said. This state program provides financial support for low-to-moderate income Virginians to enroll in courses to train for high-demand/high-value fields such as IT, skilled trades, and early childhood education.

PDCCC’s enrollment increase is in contrast to nationwide trends, where community college enrollment declined 14% from fall 2019-2021, according to recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC).

Virginia experienced a 9% drop during the same period, according to State Council of Higher Education for Virginia data.

The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the decline, as many people were out of work and couldn’t afford to take time off for college, Babb said.

The bottom line, Babb said, is that community colleges are more relevant than ever. They “are a major response to help Virginia employers find the skilled workers they need, and help our citizens gain good-paying jobs.”

PDCCC recently signed an agreement with Franklin City Public Schools to bring Franklin High 30 School seniors to its Franklin campus as part of its dual enrollment program, Zeigler stated. This plan is called the Early Pathways Initiative for College Completion Program (EPICC) and will pilot in the 2022-23 academic year.

The college has also signed an agreement with the Isle of Wight County Schools to teach marine trades training welding courses at Smithfield High School beginning in June.

PDCCC is holding 2022 fall semester enrollment open houses at its Suffolk Campus on June 25 and Franklin Campus on July 9.