Higher Learning

According to the Preliminary Enrollment Report for Oklahoma Education, enrollment in research and regional universities is down, but enrollment in the state’s community colleges is up.
The research, conducted by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, compares fall 2007 and fall 2008 enrollment rates for all of the state’s colleges.
Study figures show 2007 and 2008 numbers for full-time equivalent enrollments, first-time freshman enrollments, high school concurrent enrollments and total enrollments.
The study finds that headcount enrollment at Oklahoma public colleges and universities declined only slightly, with 177,385 enrolled in fall 2008 and 177,436 in fall 2007, while the headcount at private universities decreased 4.3 percent, from 22,250 in fall 2007 to 21,288 in fall 2008.
Headcount enrollment at research universities decreased 0.1 percent from 53,389 to 53,316, and enrollment at regional universities decreased 1.5 percent, from 55,425 to 54,570.
Enrollment at the state’s community colleges increased 1.3 percent, from 68,622 in fall 2007 to 69,499 in fall 2008.
Tulsa Community College’s total headcount enrollment increased 6.1 percent, from 16,967 in fall 2007 to 18,010 in fall 2008. TCC’s growth in enrollment was the second highest in the state, trailing an 11.2 percent growth in enrollment at Southwestern Christian University in Bethany.
TCC President Tom McKeon proudly pointed out that his school significantly outpaced nearly every other college in the state in terms of growth in enrollment.
In all of the categories represented by the research, TCC was either the leader or in the top three in terms of growth.
“We’re surpassing the state colleges significantly,” McKeon said.
In terms of total enrollment, the University of Oklahoma decreased by 0.1 percent, and Oklahoma State University decreased by 1.1 percent.
The city’s two major private universities, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University, saw increase in enrollment of 0.6 percent and a decrease of 23.5 percent, respectively.
TCC’s full-time enrollment increased 8.2 percent, while OU’s full-time enrollment decreased 0.5 percent and OSU’s decreased 2.1 percent.
McKeon said one reason for TCC’s increase in enrollment is affordability. He said TCC had the second lowest tuition increase in the state.
“We are working to keep tuition as affordable as possible,” McKeon said. “As the economy worsens, students are looking at TCC as an option for at least their first two years of college.”
McKeon said the economy itself could be a reason for the rise in enrollment.
“Even though Tulsa’s economy doesn’t mirror the national economy, when there are bad economic times, people come back to college,” McKeon said.
They want to learn new job skills in order to improve their hirability, he said.
He also cited convenience as a reason students choose to enroll at TCC.
“We offer courses online, at our four main campuses (in downtown, north, south and west Tulsa) and at community campus sites in Bixby, Glenpool, Drumright and Cleveland, Okla.”
Classes, mostly general education courses, are offered in schools and community centers in those cities in a system loosely based on Houston Community College’s manner of operating. HCC serves the majority of its students through its branch campuses, classes held in schools, libraries, etc.
TCC’s community campuses are unique in the state, McKeon said.
“In Glenpool, classes are held at City Hall, at Hwy 75 and 121st Street. They pull students from Okmulgee, Henryetta and Liberty. They allow us to have a further reach outside the city of Tulsa and Tulsa County,” McKeon said.
Many of the state’s colleges and universities saw an increase in the number of high school students concurrently enrolled in college.
TCC’s concurrent enrollment increased 35.3 percent, from 756 in fall 2007 to 1,023 in fall 2008. OU’s concurrent enrollment increased 4.3 percent, while OSU’s concurrent enrollment decreased by 1.1 percent.
Overall, concurrent enrollment in the state is up 3.0 percent—1.2 percent in research universities, 12.3 percent in regional universities and 0.8 percent in community colleges.
“The concurrent hours have helped our enrollment,” McKeon said. “We’re seeing more students in Oklahoma and across the country at least start at a two-year college to get some job skills.”
McKeon said many students are enrolling in programs like nursing, allied health and aviation.
In fields like those, McKeon said, “students can get a good-paying job with two years of study.”
Likewise, Tulsa Technology Center is seeing an increase of concurrent enrollment, said Tony Heaberlin, TTC’s public relations coordinator.
TTC operates 74.7 percent on local ad valorem taxes, 12 percent on state taxes, 1.4 percent on federal taxes and 11.9 percent on other sources.
Thus, TTC can offer high school students in 14 area public school districts concurrent enrollment for free. Heaberlin said the school encourages students to use the free tuition as an opportunity to do some career exploration, exploration that could cost up to $10,000 or more at a state or private institution.
“If you want to be an engineer, take one of our pre-engineering classes. If you want to be an architect, take one of our pre-drafting classes. If you want to be in health care, take one of our allied health sciences classes,” Heaberlin said.
Finding out early that a profession isn’t what they thought it would be can save students time and money, Heaberlin said.
He said post-high school students and adults can also find affordable training at TTC, where tuition costs average $2.50 per contact hour.
“Our dental assistant program is 600 hours,” said Heaberlin. “That’s $1,500. Compared to a private school, that’s a considerable savings.”
Heaberlin said enrollment from 1997 to 2004 rose steadily, flattened out between 2004 and 2005, declined between 2005 and 2006 and then started to rise again.
He could not offer an explanation for the year-long decline.
He said secondary enrollment is up again, with a little more than 2,000 high school students concurrently enrolled in TTC. Twelve hundred adults attend full-time classes, and 69,000 adults attend evening, weekend and business and industry training classes.
Both Heaberlin and McKeon agreed that post-secondary education is important for those who wish to have well-paying employment in the future.
“We’re predicting that 90 percent of good-paying jobs require some sort of post-secondary education, even a trade school or technical certificate,” McKeon said. “You might graduate high school and get a job in the service industry, but if you want a job in graphic design or as a lab technician, it’s going to take at least a certificate or a two-year education to get a job in those areas.”
McKeon said TCC offers degrees and certificates in 65 areas, and he’s seeing a growth in many of those career fields.
TCC recently introduced a new marketing campaign called “Fast Forward TCC,” which allows prospective students to take a two-minute, 30-question quiz that is supposed to determine their interests and skills and point them toward corresponding career options.
After completing the short survey, students are presented with a list of careers in the technical, administration, sales and arts industries and presented with information about each career, such as entry-level salary, local employment outlook and sample courses. The Web site is www.fastforwardtcc.com.

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