Enrollment low even though it's crowded

By Olivia Clements and Jessica Strand - Staff Reporters

Even though Highline seems crowded, Winter Quarter enrollment is down for the fourth straight year. 

Students say there is still no parking, crowded lines, and classes are full.

"Highline is as busy as it always is to me. The parking situation has just gotten worse," said Anthony Martinez, a third-year student. 

Savy My from the Public Safety agreed with the students. All 250 carpool parking passes have been sold out, she said. 

The college measures enrollment by FTEs, or full-time equivalents. One student taking a class and another student taking two classes equals one full-time equivalent.

Even though enrollment is down, some categories are up. The Running Start FTE increased by 6 percent and the international students FTEs increased by 7 percent. 

The full-time equivalent enrollment for Winter Quarter 2016 is 4,451. This quarter it is 3,882. That's a 12 percent decrease from last year. 

"[The FTE number] may be a little misleading," said Dr. Jeff Wagnitz, acting president.  "If you're looking at day-to-day enrollment numbers you have to remember that all of our adult basic education enrollments come in all quarter long."

Non-credit classes, such as GED diploma classes, don't start and end when credit classes do, so the FTE numbers at the end of the quarter will be higher than they are today, Dr. Wagnitz said.  Taking that into account the numbers are probably down between 2 and 5 percent in state-funded students from last year, he said.

The state expects Highline to enroll at least 5,300 FTEs and bases its funding of the college on that number. About half the funds for Highline come from the state. The rest comes from tuition and fees. 

"Really, the reason [FTE numbers are down] is that in the big picture our enrollment cycle is countercyclical to the economy," Dr. Wagnitz said.  "So we're now at a point where unemployment in King County is so low that anybody who can be working instead of being in school is working instead of being in school."

Around 2010, when unemployment rates were high, Highline was around 10 percent over-enrolled, Dr. Wagnitz said.  The college knew to expect numbers would fall after the economy improved, he said.

The state has also increased restrictions for what is considered a state-funded student, Dr. Wagnitz said.

Although the state-funded numbers are down, the increased Running Start and international number increases offset the loss, he said.

Enrollment low even though it's crowded

Even though Highilne seems crowded, Winter Quarter enrollment is down for the fourth straight year.

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