CVTC president explains enrollment decline

June 22, 2012

From “CVTC board approves budget; notes enrollment decline” — After rising enrollment peaked in 2010-11 at Chippewa Valley Technical College, student numbers are declining even as area employers see growing need for trained workers.

Technical colleges in Wisconsin noticed rising numbers around 2008 during the recession as people lost their jobs, said Margaret Dickens, CVTC’s director of planning, research and grants.

This is what CVTC leaders referred to the “workforce paradox” — continued high unemployment, but not enough trained workers to fill high-demand jobs in skilled manufacturing.

“We have people out of work, but we have jobs waiting,” Barker said.

Training offered

In the 2012-13 CVTC budget approved 8-0 Thursday night by the college board, there are a couple of initiatives meant to address that demand.

The budget expands manufacturing programs to train high-tech workers in that sector, Barker said. The number of seats in a diesel trucking program also is going up because of one of the region’s other fast-growing industries.

“That’s a direct effect of the sand mining industry,” Barker said.

And as they’re seeing a decline in the number of high school graduates, the college wants to court people 35 and older who want to take classes.

“We have to reach out to the adult learners as well as we do the high school graduates,” Barker said.

CVTC’s strategy to boost older adult enrollment is to offer more classes at night and online, award credits for previous education and compress classes so they last eight weeks instead of the standard 16 weeks.

The new budget had no increase in total taxes CVTC collects from property owners in its 11-county district, but the impact to individual homeowners may vary.

The owner of a $100,000 home who paid $174.17 in taxes last year to CVTC will see a $2.65 tax increase under the new budget. But that’s assuming the property value of the hypothetical home did not decrease, and many did in the region.

The new budget also includes spending for a new Energy Education Center on CVTC’s West Campus, but that project still needs about $1 million in private donations and state approval.

“There was a bubble from the unemployment,” she said.

Enrollment reached an all-time record in 2010-11 at 4,720 full-time equivalent students. But it fell to 4,469 in the academic year that just ended, and the college expects it to stay level for 2012-13.

Reasons for drop

CVTC leaders said several factors could be contributing to the recent declining enrollment.

College President Bruce Barker said those eager to get retrained did so in the past few years.

“Those who were laid off and needed to go back to school did and are graduating,” he said.

Shifting demographics in CVTC’s 11-county area also can be playing a role.

Enrollment in western Wisconsin elementary and high schools are lower than they were in prior years, CVTC communications director Doug Olson noted.

Current third-graders are anticipated to create another “bubble” in higher education when they graduate high school, Olson said, but not as big as what CVTC saw the past couple of years.

Reduced financial aid from the government also could be preventing some students from attending, Dickens said.

As the college sees a slight drop in enrollment, it’s coming at a time when local industry demands more trained workers.

“They’re just desperate for employees,” Dickens said.

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