Fort Lewis College enrollment is flat compared with last year, but college officials say the numbers also show signs of the growth.
This fall 3,308 students are attending FLC compared with 3,317 students last year. However the freshman class is slightly larger with 761 students this year compared with 756 students last year, FLC’s data show.
“All and all, I think we are pleased with where we landed,” said FLC President Tom Stritikus.
The school has a slightly larger freshman class, more full-time students and higher retention among the sophomore class, which is all positive, he said. The school’s revenue is also ahead of expenses, he said.
“Every student who comes to us is a victory,” he said.
FLC enrollment was also flat last year after years of decline.
The school’s decline in students is in line with national trends. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported in the spring college enrollment had declined nationally for eight consecutive years.
College enrollments tend to fall when the economy is growing and there are good-paying jobs, said Steve Schwartz, vice president for finance and administration. During recessions, colleges tend to see enrollments grow, he said.
The trend is tough particularly for rural schools like FLC, but bolstering enrollment is a focus for the school’s Board of Trustees and staff, said Ernest House Jr., chairman of the board.
“Enrollment is the No.1 concern of ours,” he said.
FLC’s goal is to increase enrollment to 3,700 students within three years, according its new strategic plan.
To help attract students and retain them, the school is working with neighboring community colleges and high schools to recruit students and starting new efforts to engage students once they arrive, Stritikus said.
“We are being very clear about student success and why students would want to come here,” he said.
FLC staff is also visiting regional high schools to talk with students about opportunities at the college and ensuring that administrators understand benefits available to students who attend FLC, Stritikus said. For example, the college recently approved a program that will ensure students from families who earn less than $60,000 a year can attend tuition-free.
“We really want to be the No. 1 destination for our local high schools,” Stritikus said.
Over the summer, FLC and Pueblo Community College also came to an agreement to ensure students interested in transferring to FLC aren’t wasting time on unnecessary classes that may not transfer.