By JULIO VEGA
This year, 15,105 students enrolled for the fall semester, an increase over 14,311 students in fall 2015.
Last year, enrollment dipped for the first time in five years. Enrollment is now back to fall 2014 levels and is expected to continue to rise.
“Our goal … is to reach 16,000 by 2017,” Vice President Michael Gutierrez said. “I think that’s a realistic goal for us.”
Enrollment numbers are constantly changing throughout the years, influenced by outside factors such as the fluctuating economy and rising interest in community colleges.
“We need our own numbers to keep growing if the college is going to remain sustainable,” Executive Dean of Student and Enrollment Services Mayra Olivares-Urueta said. “If we are going to be able to have enough income and revenue coming in, that means we need to have a lot more students coming on and staying on.”
Administrators are continuously adding and tweaking programs that attract and retain students, such as the First Year Experience, learning communities, the New Mathways Project and allied health training programs.
Workforce certificate training, which quickly move students into “high-demand, high-wage jobs,” are popular, said Judith Dumont, executive dean of workforce, corporate and continuing education
“We are at capacity in terms of space,” Dumont said. “The Police Academy is filled up. We’ve had an influx of interest about becoming a police officer in light of some of the things that have going on in our current culture.”
Gretchen Riehl, executive dean of science, technology, engineering and math, said her division faces a space crunch.
“I would love to see enrollment in developmental math go down,” she said. “That would mean we are doing a better job.”
The New Mathways Project was designed to match students with math courses that best fit their degrees and help them graduate on time.
“Seventy-seven percent of our students are part-time students,” Gutierrez said. “Our data shows that students who are going to school full time are more likely to finish their degree and/or transfer.”
Many students don’t realize how long their degrees could take if they attend part-time.
“If you are taking one course a semester, it’s going to take you 10 to 12 years to finish,” he said. “If you are taking two courses, it is going to take six to seven years.”
Online classes are also on the rise. Riehl believes they should be used to alleviate some of the overcrowding on campus, especially during morning classes.
“For example, if you walk through campus on a Tuesday morning…there’s no empty rooms,” she said. “But around 2 o’clock, there are rooms.”
Dumont said the overcrowding is a good problem.
“I think it’s a beautiful problem,” she said. “It’s a creative problem, and it’s a testament to the fine work we do here at Eastfield.”
Eastfield is the second-largest college in the Dallas County Community College District behind Richland, which has 18,828 students, equal to 2.7 million total credit hours for the semester. Eastfield follows with nearly 2.1 million. The comparison is helping officials determine how much the campus is able to expand, since both campuses are roughly equal in square footage.
According to Gutierrez, the school has an initiative in place for all the faculty members to know the names of all their students.
He said this is to make every student feel welcome and more likely to stay in school.
Gutierrez said Eastfield is committed to helping students stay in school whether they are enrolled full-time or part-time.
”If we focus more on students completing their goals, then enrollments will take care of themselves,” he said.