The Student Newspaper of Highline College

Multiple factors power late surge in enrollment

Isabella Anderson Staff Reporter Oct 15, 2020

In August, Highline’s enrollment numbers looked bad – hundreds of classes were under-enrolled. Low enrollment threatens the college’s state funding, since all the state’s colleges are expected to reach enrollment targets.

But as Fall Quarter drew near, the numbers recovered, due to a couple of factors, one Highline official said.

The pandemic and remote learning likely played into why students might not have enrolled earlier on, said Tim Wrye, executive director of Information Technology services.

“It is hard to answer for students that were not enrolling, but it seems that [COVID-19 and online learning] were a factor, including the economic impacts COVID-19 had on students,” Wrye said. “Initially we suspected students were waiting until closer to the start of the quarter to see if shifts in the pandemic response affected how we were able to offer classes, but in the end, the trend line for regular credit students looks very similar to previous years, just slightly lower.”

Part of the bump in enrollments has also been due to programs opening up.

“We got a spike in enrollments from the [English Language, Career, and Academic Prep] program beginning their ESOL [English for speakers of other languages] program enrollments earlier than in years past,” Wrye said. “They normally don’t start enrolling students until the first day of the quarter, and they adjusted processes to get students engaged and enrolled earlier this year.”

Running Start students joining again helped raise numbers too.

“We also started to enroll Running Start students at a higher pace once high school offices reopened and were able to process approvals. College staff initiated both a phone call and text message campaign to reach out to certain populations of students who were not enrolled for Fall Quarter as well’,” he said.

Not all student populations are returning in full swing, however. Overall, enrollment is down from a year ago – a little more than 8,000 students compared to 9,200 students at this point in fall 2019.

“Right now, regular credit students, ESOL, and international students all have lower numbers. International [students] can be clearly attributed to both the pandemic, and federal policy and travel restrictions,” Wrye said.

“Regular credit students we suspect multiple factors are contributing,” he said. “ESOL students are more heavily affected by the inability to hold classes in person, since many of our classes meet at various locations in students’ local communities, and a combination lack of language and technology skills often makes it more difficult for them to enroll and attend classes remotely.”