Chelan-Douglas Trends e-Newsletter

ENROLLMENT PURPOSES DECLINING AT WVC -

In the animal kingdom, creatures can learn through their environment and watching others. They are also born with some of the skillsets required to survive, such as spiders knowing how to spin a web, baby kangaroos knowing to find their mothers pouch, and salmon returning to their original waters. Humans not so much.

It is commonly known a highly educated workforce brings advantages to individuals, communities, and companies, but the job market has changed since the Great Recession. According to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, "Over 95 percent of jobs created during the recovery have gone to workers with at least some college education, while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind While jobs are back, they are not the same jobs lost during the recession. The Great Recession decimated low-skill blue-collar and clerical jobs, whereas the recovery added primarily high-skill managerial and professional jobs."

This article takes a quick look at the metrics around the higher educational institution in the two-county area, Wenatchee Valley College. The Trends tracks three types of student enrollment, and these are taken up below.

The first indicator, Number of Students Enrolled at Wenatchee Valley College (WVC) per 1,000 Residents Aged 18-64 for the Purpose of Transferring to a Four-Year Institution, reveals that 2015-2016 represented the fourth consecutive academic year with declining numbers. The 1,205 enrollees at WVC with this stated purpose have increased, however, from 973, or by 24%, since the 2001-2002 school year. Another view of this group reports that 2015-2016 enrollees for this purpose at WVC per 1,000 residents of the combined counties was 13.3, increasing from 11.9 during the 2001-2002 school year. By comparison in the state during the 2015-2016 school year, enrollment for the purposes of transferring to a four-year university per 1,000 residents of the state was 11.9, decreasing from 13.7 since the 2001-2002 school year.

The second indicator, Number of Students Enrolled per 1,000 Persons Ages 18-64 for the Purpose of Workforce Training at WVC, reports a total of 1,069 enrollees in the 2015-2016 school year, decreasing from 1,096 enrollees, or by over 2% since the 2001-2002 school year. As a rate per 1,000 residents, the combined counties came in at 11.8 enrollees, decreasing from 13.4 since the 2001-2002 school year. By comparison in the state during the 2015-2016 school year, enrollment for the purposes of workforce training per 1,000 residents ages 18-64

was 14.2, decreasing from 15.9 since the 2001-2002 school year. So in contrast to the transfer student population, this segment of WVC's enrollment falls below the Washington State average. Generally speaking, workforce training programs are designed to train or retrain the unemployed or low-wage earners to provide improved employment opportunities.

The final indicator, Number of Students Enrolled per 1,000 People Ages 18-64 for the Purpose of Basic Skills at WVC, reveals that there were 246 enrollees, increasing from 203, or by 21%, since the 2001-2002 school year. As a rate per 1,000 residents, the combined counties came in at 2.7 enrollees, increasing from 2.5 since the 2001-2002 school year. By comparison in the state during the 2015-2016 school year, enrollment for the purposes of basic skills per 1,000 residents ages 18-64 was 3.1, decreasing from 3.7 since the 2001-2002 school year. At WVC, Basic Skills training is under the Transitional Studies department and targets those seeking "personal enrichment, [completing a] high school diploma, preparing for…GED tests or transitioning to college".

According to Dr. Jim Richardson, President of Wenatchee Valley College, "Declining enrollments since the recession have been largely driven by more students returning to the workforce, which has been shown in larger declines in enrollment for older students and students in workforce courses. While enrollment for this group of students continues to slowly decline, it appears that stagnant growth in the population of traditional, college-going students coming out of high school in our district, and more students enrolling directly in the public four-year institutions is beginning to have a larger impact on enrollment trends."

Richardson continues "Some of the traditional out of high school enrollment seems to be replaced by dual-credit in high school enrollment. This suggests that the cost of college is central to students' plans."

As the recovery from the Great Recession continues, perhaps more people will be able to participate in higher education before they enter the workforce directly from high school or to supplement the experience they have already gained from years in the workforce by earning a formal education. Keeping an eye on this set of indicators in the future will perhaps provide some insight into whether this is occurring or not.


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