The EPCC enrollment figure for the fall semester has decreased from 29,459 in 2016 to the current figure of 28,562 for 2017.
According to Raul H. Lerma, the Interim Vice President of Student Services and Enrollment, the U.S. government had a role in that decline.
The year-round federal Pell Grant program was officially discontinued in 2012 by the Obama administration and Congress due to cost concerns, Inside Higher Ed reports.
This caused many students who depend on financial aid to not enroll in summer classes.
However, the 115th Congress recently passed a spending bill that included the restoration of the year-round Pell.
Starting in summer 2018, students will be eligible for financial aid during the summer.
“That’s one of the things we are certainly looking at to increase enrollment for this year,” Lerma said.
The status of the economy is also a factor which affects enrollment in colleges and universities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate of the U.S. as of Aug. 2017 was at a low 4.4 percent.
Lerma believes that historically, unemployment and college enrollment have a direct relationship.
“Colleagues in other schools that I am in contact with see more of the same thing,” Lerma said.
El Paso’s unemployment rate as of July 2017 was at 4.6 percent indicating that the city’s economy is also doing very well.
Lerma believes that when people are not in school, they are working.
In 2011, the unemployment rate reached up to 9.1 percent, which was when EPCC had a very high enrollment rate.
Although unemployment is a good indicator of college enrollment, there are many other factors in play like culture and the image of a college.
Lerma emphasizes that a “college-going culture” is also very important for increasing enrollment.
A college-going culture should be seen in both high schools and even elementary schools according to Lerma, “We have associations with certain elementary schools where we try to encourage them to continue their education afterward.”
Another factor that affects enrollment is the college dropout rate.
According to the “Pathways to Prosperity” study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, only 56 percent of students complete a Bachelor’s degree program within six years.
The study also showed that men are more likely to drop out of college, with over 57 percent of the Bachelor’s degrees going towards women.
According to Reuters, students drop out of college for various reasons like the curriculum being to rigorous, the cost being too high, having a job and going through family troubles.
“We have been helping with counseling and Early Alert to help students who are having problems with their studies,” Lerma said in reference to students that drop out of college.
The Early Alert Program is an initiative meant to promote academic success within EPCC.
Students who exhibit at-risk behaviors like poor attendance and failing grades are referred by faculty to the program.