Monday, April 27, 2009

Growing Pains

We are headed into our seventh (summer) and likely eighth (fall) consecutive semester with an enrollment increase - a streak not experienced for some time at MVCC. Despite the economic forces bringing growing numbers to our front door, my expectation is that this is not a streak but a strategic direction of managed enrollment growth. I recently created a charter for an Enrollment Management Council to review enrollment data and community trends to coordinate our efforts and, to the extent possible, manage enrollment rather than have our enrollment manage us. However, the current enrollment increases seem to be outpacing our expectations and testing some of our recently refined systems and processes.

With enrollment up between eight and nine percent this spring, faculty and staff have stepped right up and responded with proportional support and services for students. Thanks to some bold initiatives by a number of staff, we have implemented two critical processes that have changed the way we operate. Priority registration allows students with the most credits to enroll first to give them the best opportunity to enroll in those classes they need to graduate. In addition, implementing waitlists for full class sections allows us to track where the enrollment pressures are greatest and do everything we can to open additional class sections on demand. With these new processes in place, we're likely to see even more students this summer and fall (and on into the future) along with increased parking demands and substantially more students through processes designed perhaps for fewer students...something we need to think about very quickly.

Although this may be a recent phenomenon for MVCC, community colleges around the country have been experiencing periods of double digit increases throughout the last decade. Large enrollment increases will require us to be as creative as possible to maintain access for so many new students. It will also require that each one of us bring the best we have to offer to work every day and recognize that nearly every challenge will be best met through teamwork. Everyone will have to do their part and rely on everyone else to do the same - even more so than normal. It's times like these when I emphasize locus of control and sphere of influence. To keep stress to a minimum (for our students and ourselves), it's often helpful to reflect on what you can and cannot control and use your abilities to communicate and influence things you may not be able to control. Walking in each others shoes and recognizing the solution may seem simple from your perspective, but not as clear from someone else's viewpoint.

I've often referred to the importance of all of us working collaboratively in new and different ways. We've made progress with this these notions the past few semesters and have seen enrollment grow ever so steady, between one and four percent. Now that we're up toward double digit growth, it's time to really magnify and employ these skills - believing in ourselves and perhaps more importantly helping all of us believe in each other. If you have any thoughts or feedback on this post, please email me at presblog@mvcc.edu.