Enrollment rises to 2,385 at COA


Freshman Meghan Young first works on her English homework on campus at College of The Albemarle, Monday, August 15, 2016.


Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Enrollment is up at College of The Albemarle, college officials reported during the Board of Trustees meeting earlier this week.

“We're about 114 students up from where we were last year this time,” said Lynn Hurdle-Winslow, COA vice president of student success and enrollment management. “The enrollment as of today, and the fat lady has not sung … is 2,385.”

Some students are still registering for classes, Hurdle-Winslow noted, though she added in an interview later she expects final fall enrollment will still be around 2,400 curriculum, or degree-seeking, students.

That tentative number bodes well for the four-campus community college that’s been fighting years of downward enrollment trends.

About 3,100 degree-seeking students enrolled at COA over the 2015-16 academic year, compared to almost 4,000 such students in 2010-11, the high-water mark for the college since 2006, according to COA enrollment numbers.

Notably, the opening of the Currituck Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center caused COA’s enrollment to tick back up to 3,536 in 2013-14, but enrollment continued to drop in following years.

COA's enrollment also includes thousands of continuing education and basic studies students whose numbers are also still down from prior years.

Hurdle-Winslow also highlighted steps COA has taken to improve enrollment in the last few years. To help COA staffers work better together, she noted COA has integrated the admissions office with the financial aid office and the marketing office with the recruiting office. It's also placed more liaisons in the region's high schools to help more students find the courses they need, including technical and vocational programs.

She also said COA works to keep in constant contact with students, from admissions to graduation or transfer, to help them stay on track.

Emphasizing that point, COA President Kandi Deitemeyer advised trustees that COA has focused more on student success than its bottom-line enrollment numbers. COA is a “people business” at the end of the day, she said.

COA is also seeing growth in its “Career and College Promise” program that enrolls students in both high school and the college. Dean Roughton, dean of arts and sciences and secondary education, reported COA now has just over 700 dual-enrollment students, up from about 400 dual-enrollees four years ago.

Roughton said COA has become more flexible to partner with more high schools, offering courses students need while changing how they're scheduled and structured. For instance, he said COA changed courses to have more “lower stakes” assignments to help students build successes before big papers and tests come up.

As an indicator of student success, Roughton also reported that high school students are more successful in dual-enrollment courses than adult students are. In fall 2015, spring 2016 and summer 2016, more than 80 percent of high schoolers successfully completed transfer courses while just over 70 percent of adult students did. Roughton noted high school students face greater consequences for failing to complete a course.

He also noted COA is expanding its distance learning program. A recent $280,000 federal grant will help purchase teleconferencing carts for high schools far from COA campuses.