Casper College’s enrollment has grown by more than 200 students over the past several months, officials said, which could result in the first year-over-year increase for the school in years.
As of Monday, there were 3,616 students enrolled for the spring semester at the community college, spokesman Chris Lorenzen said. That’s up from the 3,393 total headcount at the end of the fall 2018 semester and is on pace to be the most students at a semester’s end in at least two years.
Of the 3,616 students, about 38 percent are full-timers, Lorenzen said. Just over 1,750 are part-timers, and 497 more are high schoolers taking classes at the college.
At the start of the fall 2017 semester, by comparison, there were 1,623 full-time students and 2,151 combined part-timers and high schoolers.
The total number of credit hours being taken at Casper College is up about 3 percent, the school’s vice president for student services, Kim Byrd, said last week.
“I’m fairly positive about the direction we’re going,” she said. “Being flat was really kind of an increase for us; we weren’t going down anymore.”
Byrd and Lorenzen said the school’s strategic enrollment process is the reason why enrollment is turning upward. Officials at the school previously told the Star-Tribune that they’ve become more aggressive in recruiting and that they’ve overhauled their enrollment and student services websites. Lorenzen highlighted the college’s marketing push, as well.
Byrd said Casper College is communicating better with local high schools, offering more tours and more targeted recruiting efforts on campus.
“I think you saw the initial drop across all colleges in the state,” Lorenzen said. “We’re all following a similar pattern slowing and starting to get closer to being flat with our enrollment range. We just turned the corner really this spring semester, it feels like.”
Still, the college has a ways to go to return to its pre-bust years. According to the school’s website, Casper College has lost more than 1,200 students from fall 2009 to spring 2018 — 4,648 to 3,438. Indeed, if the spring 2019 numbers hold steady into the fall, the school will be poised for its first year-over-year growth in overall headcount since 2009.
Byrd said the number of full-time equivalent students has ticked up, too. That’s another positive sign, after a few years of decline across the college’s five schools. Full-time equivalency, or FTE, is full-time students plus the calculated equivalent of part-timers. So if a school has 100 full-time students and 50 half-time students, then it has a full-time equivalency of 125. It’s not the same as a straight headcount but is still instructive in examining how many hours are being taken by students.
Between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 academic years, FTE at Casper College’s schools fell between 2.5 percent at the business and industry school and 20.9 percent at the social and behavioral science school.
Other educational entities around the state have experienced similar enrollment issues in the years since the economic bust, though the University of Wyoming and the K-12 system have both rebounded to varying degrees in the past two years.
Laramie County Community College, the largest of Wyoming’s seven community colleges, lost more than 1,200 students between the 2013-14 school year and 2016-17. But it saw some growth — about 50 students — heading into last year. It, too, has predominantly part-timers — 4,864 in 2017-18, with 1,284 full-time students, according to the school’s website.