After some high initial numbers, the Pratt Community College summer and fall enrollments are showing signs of improvement. To encourage more students to enroll, the college has implemented lower tuition and fees for online classes.
Before the lower tuition and fees were established, there was already improvement in enrollment numbers. In just one week, enrollment for the fall semester went from 30 percent below last year to 13 percent. While 16 percent below the previous year is very low, it does show a positive increase in student enrollment, said Lisa Perez Miller, vice president of students and enrollment management.
“We’re still not where we want to be but were pleased to see it moving upward,” Miller said. “We just can’t help but feel confident. There’s going to be a switch and everyone will want to enroll.”
There is usually a lot of enrollment between now and the start of the fall semester. With the uncertainty on what school will look like in the fall, some students are waiting longer to enroll, Miller said.
Coaches, faculty and staff continue to engage students on a one to one basis through texting, Zoom an other social media.
Enrollment makes up a large portion of the college budget. Right now, its tricky to know how much the college will have to work with, said PCC President Michael Calvert.
The uncertainty doesn’t help. Classes could start on a fully opened campus, or classes could start online and then switch to an open campus or classes could start on an open campus and have to return to an online situation.
Right now, plans are for an open campus for August. Plans are also in place for a late start in September or October or no one on campus at all in the fall, Calvert said.
Will masks be required, will there be one person per room in residence halls? There are so many unknown perimeters. But safety is the number one for the campus for students, faculty and staff.
Students could return to campus, more students than anticipated could come to PCC rather than go to a more expensive campus and enrollment could be above last year or they could stay home. This makes it difficult to come up with a budget.
“We would love to base the budget on an increase in enrollment but everyone is figuring it will be lower,” Calvert said. “It’s just hard to plan. It’s a dynamic situation. We’ve never had a year like this.”
To help stimulate enrollment, the cost of in state tuition and fees for online classes was dropped from $135 to $115 for a $20 savings for the students. For out of state tuition, cost was dropped from $135 to $128 for a $7 savings, said Kent Adams, vice president of finance and operations.
For 2020 Kansas high school students or graduates, concurrent tuition and fees were dropped to 89 per credit hour and to $75 for concurrent summer school classes for students in the college service area.
Further funds are available to students from the U.S. Department of education through the CARES Act that is strictly for all higher education. There is $259,000 in aid for qualified students that have been impacted by COVID-19. Students that qualify will receive funds for immediate needs. Students that qualify for Pell grants can get a share of any money left over.
The college also benefits from the CARES act and will receive $259,000 to cover some of the $380,000 loss the college incurred when they reimbursed students that had to move out of residence halls.
While the future is uncertain, the current financial situation is still positive. Revenues for the general and vocational funds are $76,000 to the good. Expenditures are less than budgeted by $389,000. Motor vehicle taxes, delinquent taxes and miscellaneous income are all on the plus side. Expenditures are under budget due to no students on campus and travel restrictions, Adams said.
This year the college’s annual scholarship auction was conducted online due to COVID-19 and the limits on public gatherings but the event still garnered approximately $58,000. A generous $100,000 scholarship auction challenge from Marvin and Nancy Schmidtberger added to the earnings of the auction, bringing the total to nearly $158,000. All of which will benefit future students and PCC’s bottom line.